Vermont Governor Signs First-in-Nation Restrictions on Toxic PFAS Chemicals
May 19, 2021
PORTLAND, O.R.—Today, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed into law a nation-leading bill that restricts the sale of consumer products that contain toxic chemicals known as PFAS. The bill bans PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam, food packaging, ski wax, and carpets, rugs, and stain-resistant treatments.
Vermont Conservation Voters, Safer States, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and Mind the Store released the following statements in response.
“We applaud our state’s leadership for taking such strong action in response to the demands of our community members for protection from dangerous PFAS chemicals,” said Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters. “This bill adds powerful momentum to the fight against PFAS, and will help lead to the elimination of this dangerous chemical from all avoidable uses.”
“This ground-breaking policy has an impact beyond Vermont’s borders. It sends a strong message to the chemical industry and manufacturers that PFAS have no place in products,” explained Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “Vermont’s leadership is part of a growing movement around the country to act upstream and prevent PFAS contamination before it happens. And, other states are well-positioned to join this movement in the future.”
“This new law demonstrates that people and communities understand the dangers of these ‘forever chemicals’ and want common-sense laws to protect them,” said Liz Hitchcock, director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. “Vermont’s vote shows once again that this is a bipartisan issue. We can all agree that toxic chemicals don’t belong near us or in our environment. Congress must take action to ban PFAS and chemicals. Rep. Dingell’s bill to eliminate PFAS in food packaging should move forward quickly.”
“This bill confirms what retailers have seen coming,” added Mike Schade, campaign director of Mind the Store. “Driven especially by drinking water contamination, consumer demand, enacted policy, and future regulations, more and more retailers have announced plans to phase-out PFAS in their products and packaging over the last couple of years. And, with Vermont’s new bill, the foreseeable future is now here. Fast-food giants like Burger King must get out in front of the regulatory curve and ban these unnecessary toxic chemicals.”
Chemical companies make PFAS chemicals for their stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proof properties. 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. Scientists are most concerned about the cumulative impact resulting from exposures to products, contaminated drinking water, and contaminated food. A peer-reviewed study published last week found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples and that newer PFAS build up in people.
Some state and local governments are moving to phase out classes of toxic chemicals, such as PFAS, from food packaging in favor of safer alternatives. Over the past two years, Washington, New York, and Maine have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in food packaging that begin taking effect in December 2022. Federal legislation to ban PFAS in food packaging, the Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act, is expected to be reintroduced by U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell.
Over the past two years, 18 food retailers, including Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons, Amazon.com, Cava, Chipotle, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Sweetgreen, Trader Joe’s, Wendy’s, and Whole Foods Market, announced steps to reduce or eliminate PFAS in food packaging at their more than 77,000 stores.
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 helps prevent harm to people and the environment caused by dangerous chemicals and creates innovative solutions that promote safer alternatives. 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
SAFER CHEMICALS HEALTHY FAMILIES
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families is a program of Toxic-Free Future that fights for strong federal policies that protect the public from toxic chemicals. www.saferchemicals.org
MIND THE STORE
The Mind the Store campaign is a program of Toxic-Free Future that challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives. The campaign coordinates the annual retailer report card that benchmarks and scores major retailers on their safer chemicals policies and implementation programs. www.mindthestore.org and www.retailerreportcard.org
VERMONT CONSERVATION VOTERS
Founded in 1982, VCV works to elect environmentally-friendly candidates to public office, and then holds elected officials accountable for the decisions they make affecting our air, water, wildlife, land, communities, and health. www.vermontconservationvoters.com