UPDATE: The Washington State Legislature has passed bills to ban PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam and food packaging. More information.
Release Date: February 14, 2018
Contact: Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-854-7623
(Olympia, WA) – The Washington State Legislature has advanced two bills that would ban sources of the harmful class of nonstick chemicals called PFASs. If Washington state’s bills become law, Washington would be the first state to restrict the use of PFASs in food packaging and some firefighting foams.
Used in a wide variety of nonstick, stain-resistant and waterproof products, the industrial class of chemicals – including newer versions of the chemicals that are now manufactured by the chemical industry- are showing up in drinking water, food, humans, breast milk, and the environment in Washington and many other states across the country. PFAS-containing firefighting foam specifically has contaminated drinking water for millions of Americans, including in Washington state in Coupeville, Issaquah, and Airway Heights.
PFASs are linked to cancer, liver toxicity, and other health effects, are extremely persistent, and can stay in the human body for as long as 8 years.
Washington’s legislative session ends in less than one month on March 9th.
“Washington state is taking the right approach to getting these harmful chemicals out of our drinking water, food, and environment. These industrial chemicals present an immediate threat to health and the environment,” said Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director of Toxic-Free Future. “These bills will prevent future contamination, health problems, and huge clean up bills for taxpayers.”
Specifically, the bills moving through the Washington State Legislature are:
House Bill 2658 – Healthy Food Packaging Act, sponsored by Rep. Joan McBride (D-Kirkland)
- This bill has already passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 56-41.
- It would ban the sale of paper food packaging treated with PFAS chemicals, including microwave popcorn bags, muffin and fast food wrappers, bakery bags, and butter wrappers in favor of safer alternatives.
- Research shows food packaging is a source of human exposure to nonstick chemicals when the chemicals move into food that comes into contact with the packaging.
- Studies show that when the food packages are landfilled or composted, the chemicals can contaminate soil, crops, water, and wildlife.
- A recent study found 100% of microwave popcorn bags likely contained PFASs. (Results available at toxicfreefuture.org/popcornandpizza)
In a 2016 study of over 300 food packaging materials, nearly 40% were treated with fluorine and likely contained PFAS.
SB 6413 – Safer Firefighting Foam, Gear, and Drinking Water, sponsored by Senator Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim)
- This bill has already passed the Senate on a vote of 38-9.
- It would prohibit the sale of PFAS containing firefighting foams unless the use for which it is intended is required by federal law or if the user can demonstrate there is no effective alternative.
- The bill also requires anyone selling firefighting gear coated with PFAS chemicals to notify the buyer.
- Firefighters are exposed to the foam during use. Cancer is now the leading cause of line of duty deaths for fire fighters.
- Safer alternatives to the foam are already in use, including at some fire stations in Washington state.