Illinois Governor Signs into Law First-Ever Statewide Ban of PFAS Incineration
June 30, 2022
Health advocates nationwide applaud the move and anticipate more government policies to follow
PORTLAND, OR⸺On Wednesday, June 8, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed into law a first-in-the-nation policy that prohibits the disposal by incineration of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) that are listed in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory. This includes, but is not strictly limited to, PFAS substances that are often found in aqueous film-forming foam, otherwise known as firefighting foam. In 2020, New York adopted a similar law that banned the incineration of PFAS-containing firefighting foams at a specific facility, but Illinois is the first to issue a statewide ban on incinerating certain PFAS.
Health and environmental advocacy organizations from Illinois and states across the country applaud this move and anticipate more government policies to follow. Sierra Club Illinois and Safer States released the following statements in response to this news.
“This historic law makes Illinois the first state in the country to have a statewide ban on the incineration of certain PFAS,” said Nicole Saulsberry, state government representative, Sierra Club Illinois. “The Governor's office did a tremendous job in negotiating the bill's passage, thus advocating for a cleaner and healthier Illinois. I would like to thank the United Congregations of the Metro East for their diligence and perseverance in leading the charge to ban PFAS incineration throughout the state of Illinois. The Sierra Club is proud to have joined forces with the United Congregations of the Metro East in this endeavor. "
“This is another example of a state setting an important precedent towards protecting communities from toxic exposures,” explained Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “Illinois’ new state law not only helps to eliminate the use of these dangerous chemicals, but also helps drive toward using safer chemicals from the start. This is an excellent step in the right direction. We anticipate other state policies nationwide to follow this lead, and when they do, they should expand it by banning incineration of all PFAS.”
BACKGROUND ON PFAS “FOREVER CHEMICALS”
Chemical companies sell PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) for application to products such as paper and textiles as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments. PFAS has been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, immune system suppression, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. PFAS are known as “forever” chemicals because they don’t break down in the environment. These chemicals also are not fully broken down in an incinerator, and instead can pollute nearby air, water, and soil. While PFAS threatens communities across the country, the areas closest to incinerators face some of the greatest risks.
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. Nine states including CA, CO, CT, ME, MD, MN, NY, VT, and WA have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in food packaging. Five states including CA, CO, ME, MD and VT have adopted restrictions on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and fabric treatments. With new legislation adopted this year, WA will be evaluating safer alternatives for PFAS in other products such as apparel and firefighter turnout gear with a timeline of adopting restrictions by 2025. CA, CO, and MD are taking action to eliminate PFAS in cosmetics. Ten states including CA, CO, CT, IL, ME, MD, NH, NY, VT, and WA have put in place bans on the sale of firefighting foam containing PFAS.
Retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to reduce or eliminate PFAS in key product sectors such as food packaging and textiles, according to recent commitments shared by Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program.
Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.
Safer States is an alliance of diverse environmental health organizations and coalitions from across the nation committed to building a healthier world. By harnessing place-based power, the alliance works to safeguard people and the planet from toxic chemicals and sparks innovative solutions for a more sustainable future.
“Illinois’ new state law not only helps to eliminate the use of these dangerous chemicals, but also helps drive toward using safer chemicals from the start. This is an excellent step in the right direction. We anticipate other state policies nationwide to follow this lead, and when they do, they should expand it by banning incineration of all PFAS.” - Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States