In July 2021 the state introduced “An Act To Stop Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Pollution”, which has been designated an emergency measure. Maine’s law states that, as of January 1, 2030, no one in the state “may sell, offer for sale or distribute for sale” any products where PFAS chemicals were intentionally added, unless they can qualify for “unavoidable use” designations. Further, manufacturers must report to state regulators any products that contain PFAS which are to be sold in the state by 2023. PFAS compounds are found in a wide range of products, from dental floss to guitar strings, cosmetics to cookware. PFAS are used to make products water and stain proof, and of course the toxic chemicals are found in firefighting foam – chemical companies face lawsuits filed by many firefighters.
Studies since 2015 by the CDC have found that PFAS chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood and drinking water of 97% of the U.S. population. It is so ubiquitous that researchers have found PFAS at dangerous levels literally everywhere on the planet, including in rain, polar bears near the north pole, women’s breast milk, and marine animals. Research and other studies has linked PFAS to many serious health problems, including cancer, kidney and liver disease, decreased immunity, decreased sperm counts, birth defects, endocrine disruption, high cholesterol, and more.
Opposed to the bill is the American Chemistry Council, arguing that the ban is a mistake. And chemical manufacturers face a multitude of PFAS lawsuits brought by individuals, from firefighters to farmers.
“Unfortunately, as written, this misguided law will eventually ban thousands of products that Maine families and businesses rely on without providing meaningful impact on public health,” the group said in a statement after the law’s passage. “It will impact every major industry in Maine, including forest products, healthcare, textiles, electronics, and construction. In fact, it undermines effective product design, and in some cases, product safety and efficacy, including for applications that are important for public safety and public health.”
Those in Favor
The enaction of this bill was applauded by public health advocates and independent scientists. Sarah Doll, the national director of Safer States, a public health advocacy group that has pushed for stronger legislation at the state level, said that “This policy sets a strong national precedent that sends a clear signal to industry that we need to move quickly toward safer chemistry and away from toxic chemicals like PFAS,” reported The Guardian.
Lori Gramlich, Democratic state House Representative who sponsored the bill, told Reuters that "PFAS is at a crisis level here in Maine—it's in the soil, groundwater, and household items, and it is making people severely sick."
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Maine has become a U.S. climate leader and it is paving the way for environmental law. Just one month before enacting the PFAS ban it was the first state to pass a bill requiring the government's divestment from fossil fuels by 2026 and also in July, a bill was signed that diverted costs of recycling from taxpayers to companies, the first of its kind in the U.S.