With health concerns mounting about PFAS chemicals, the Vermont Legislature is moving to restrict the sale of consumer products that contain that class of chemical. The Vermont Senate has voted to approve that step; now, the House will consider the measure.
Bill S.20 would restrict PFAS — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl — in consumer products sold in Vermont. It also includes restrictions on phthalates and bisphenols.
“We know that the chemicals like PFAS, BPA and phthalates can all seep into the foods we eat. We eat them, and they bio-accumulate. Over time, they can cause some very significant, debilitating diseases.”
-Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, D-Chittenden, bill sponsor and a college professor with over 30 years of teaching, research and administrative experience in the biological sciences.
These chemicals of concern have been linked in scientific studies to ADHD, reproductive disorders and neurodevelopmental problems, among other serious health conditions. These chemicals are in food packaging (where they break down and migrate into the food to be consumed), and outgas from stain-resistant carpeting and upholstery, waterproof jackets and other waterproof fabric products, as well as nonstick cookware and utensils, among many other products.*
What will the bill do?
The bill will not ban the sale of all products containing the chemical, but it would ban the import and sale of some of the most common items containing the chemical — firefighting foam, food packaging, ski wax, and rugs and carpets. Textiles and leathers with stain-resistant and water-resistant treatments containing PFAS would also be banned.
Proponents of the bill
PFAS chemicals are also in firefighting foam and Vermont firefighters support the legislation; they argue that effective alternatives are already available that could protect firefighters from exposure to these toxic chemicals. Additionally, some companies in the state, like Seventh Generation, say these restrictions are a good move for Vermont. Director of sustainability and authenticity Martin Wolf said the company wants to see the use of these chemicals stopped.
Opponents of the bill
The American Chemical Council — representing the producers of the chemicals — has been one of the bill’s opponents. It says that, by banning a whole class of chemicals, the bill would ban some chemicals that are safe. There has also been opposition from the Associated Industries of Vermont, a member organization that primarily represents manufacturers.
If signed into law, the bill would start going into effect in 2022, with other sections going into effect as late as 2023. The Senator said this timeline would allow the Department of Health to identify alternative, non-harmful chemicals.
*For more information on the scientific research findings about PFAS chemicals (as well as BPA/BPS, Phthalates and many other chemicals of concern) go to our Blog, scroll down to the search box, and then enter the name of the chemical you are interested in learning more about.