Contact: Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-632-1545 ext 113
(Olympia, WA) – Last night, the Washington State House of Representatives voted 72-26 to ban the sale of firefighting foam containing the harmful class of nonstick chemicals called “PFASs”. The legislation, ESSB 6413, also bans the use of the foam in fire training exercises and requires firefighters to be notified when these chemicals are used in the protective clothing firefighters wear. The bill already passed the Senate on a vote of 38-9.
The legislation now goes back to the Senate for a concurrence vote, and then Governor Jay Inslee has 20 days to sign the legislation. If the bill becomes law, Washington would be the first state to restrict PFASs in firefighting foams. The bill was sponsored by Senator Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) who is also a firefighter, and Representative Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds).
PFAS-containing firefighting foam has contaminated the drinking water of millions of Americans across the country, including in the Washington communities of Coupeville, Issaquah, and Airway Heights. These communities face high costs for remediation and cleanup. The City of Issaquah spent more than $1 million on a water filtration system to address PFAS contamination of their water.
Firefighters are exposed to the foam while training or fighting fires. Safer alternatives to the foam are already in use, including at some fire stations in Washington state.
Specifically, the legislation:
- Prohibits the sale of PFAS-containing firefighting foams for use in Washington state beginning on July 1, 2020, unless the use for which it is intended is required by federal law, or the foam will be used by an oil refinery, oil terminal, or chemical plant for firefighting at those facilities.
- Prohibits the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams for training purposes beginning on July 1, 2018.
- Requires that any manufacturer of PFAS-firefighting foam recall their product and reimburse retailers or other purchases once the ban on sale is in effect.
- Requires anyone selling firefighting gear containing PFAS chemicals to notify the buyer.
- Allows the Department of Ecology to request a certificate of compliance from manufacturers of PFAS-containing firefighting foam or firefighting gear.
Linked to cancer, liver toxicity, and other health effects, PFASs are industrial chemicals that are present in drinking water, food, humans, breast milk, and the environment. PFASs are extremely persistent and can stay in the human body for as long as 8 years. More information can be found at toxicfreefuture.org/key-issues/legislative-priorities-2018.
“Our communities have a right to safe drinking water and firefighters should be protected from harmful chemicals on the job. The chemical industry is now on notice that these extremely problematic chemicals that build up in the environment, wildlife and people are no longer welcome in Washington. We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Van De Wege, Rep. Strom Pedersen and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon for helping to protect our water, families, and environment from future harm,” said Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director of Toxic-Free Future.
“Cancer is the leading cause of death of firefighters. This legislation helps protect firefighters by reducing one source of unnecessary exposures to cancer-causing PFAS chemicals. We thank the sponsors for bringing this important health measure forward and all the legislators who voted to protect firefighters and public health,” said Michael White, Legislative Liaison for the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters.
Toxic-Free Future is a statewide nonprofit organization using science and advocacy to win strong health protections for people and the environment. Toxicfreefuture.org and @ToxFreeFuture