Health advocates say bolder action is needed to prevent PFAS pollution to protect people and environment from dangerous “forever chemicals”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its roadmap on PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a class of toxic chemicals known to cause harm to people and the environment. The EPA’s plan states that it will “deliver tangible public health benefits to all people who are impacted by these chemicals.”
In response to today’s announcement, Toxic-Free Future, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Mind the Store, and Safer States gave the following statements:
“PFAS pollution is a public health emergency and communities across the country are suffering devastating economic and health effects. While it’s good to see EPA laying out the steps that Administrator Regan announced today, it’s going to take even more action — from states, Congress, EPA, and other federal agencies — to turn off the tap on the pollution that results from using these dangerous toxic chemicals,” said Liz Hitchcock, director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, the federal advocacy program of Toxic-Free Future.
“This plan falls far short on preventing new PFAS contamination,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Toxic-Free Future. “EPA is failing, while Washington and other states are taking prevention-based actions, banning PFAS in products when safer solutions are identified. This is a rational approach to protect people and our earth—other states and the federal government should step up and ban PFAS in products.”
“The EPA roadmap is out of sync with the actions of the business community,” said Mike Schade, director of Mind the Store, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “Major retailers like McDonald’s and manufacturers of products that contain PFAS are already stepping up to the plate to ban PFAS, and many more should follow their lead. Their voluntary actions should be reinforced with state and federal bans on PFAS to prevent further widespread environmental contamination.”
“The PFAS crisis is impacting communities across the country,” said Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “While the EPA continues to move far too slowly to address PFAS, state governments have already stepped up to the plate and will continue to lead the way in regulating and phasing out these dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ in effective and swift ways—a critical piece of the overall solution.”
Chemical companies sell PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) for application to paper and textiles as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments. A growing body of scientific research has found links between exposures to PFAS and a wide range of health problems including a weaker immune system, cancer, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. PFAS are often referred to as “forever” chemicals because they are not known to break down in the environment and can easily move through soil to drinking water. With remarkable persistence and mobility, PFAS have become global pollutants that threaten the health of people and wildlife. A recent peer-reviewed study by Toxic-Free Future found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples tested and that newer PFAS build up in people. And, Toxic-Free Future’s latest investigative report revealed that a PFAS manufacturing facility is a major source of both PFAS pollution and ozone-depleting chemicals that contribute to health problems and climate change.
State governments are taking legislative and regulatory actions to phase out PFAS in products to prevent contamination in favor of safer alternatives. For example, laws in ME and WA have given state agencies authority to ban PFAS in a wide range of products. CA, CT, ME, MN, NY, VT, and WA have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in food packaging. VT and ME adopted bans on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and aftermarket treatments and regulatory action is pending on these products and other home textiles (e.g. upholstery, bedding) in CA and WA. CA, CO, CT, IL, ME, NH, NY, and WA have put in place bans on the sale of firefighting foam containing PFAS.
Federal legislation to protect communities and ban PFAS in multiple product sectors has been or is expected to be introduced.
Retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to reduce or eliminate PFAS in key product sectors including textiles, according to the annual Retailer Report Card published by Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program. Over the past two years, 18 retailers selling food or food packaging announced steps to reduce or eliminate PFAS in food packaging at their more than 77,000 stores, which includes Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons, Amazon.com, Cava, Chipotle, Freshii, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Sweetgreen, Trader Joe’s, Wendy’s, and Whole Foods Market.
Toxic-Free Future (TFF) is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that advances the use of safer products, chemicals, and practices through science, organizing, advocacy, and consumer engagement to ensure a healthier tomorrow. Safer Chemicals Healthy Families is a Toxic-Free Future program dedicated to achieving strong federal policies that protect the public from toxic chemicals. Mind the Store is a Toxic-Free Future program that challenges retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives, and scores major retailers on their safer chemicals policies in an annual Retailer Report Card.
Safer States is a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states across the country that share a bold and urgent vision to protect people and communities from toxic chemical threats. By harnessing place-based power, Safer States creates innovative solutions that promote safer alternatives and helps prevent harm to people and the environment caused by dangerous chemicals. Working directly with state-based advocacy organizations, Safer States provides support and strategic guidance to advocates as well as a platform for national collaboration and coordination. www.saferstates.org