PFAS Protection Act

Testimony: The PFAS Protection Act

Today we testified in support of the PFAS Protection Act. A bill sponsored by Senator Sarah Elfreth and Delegate Sara Love. 

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Emily Scarr
Maryland PIRG State Director

Author: Emily Scarr

Maryland PIRG State Director

(410) 467-9389

Started on staff: 2005
B.A., Vassar College

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Recently, Emily helped win small donor public financing in Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George's County, and Baltimore City; the Family and Firefighter Protection Act to ban flame retardants in children's products, furniture and mattresses; and, the Maryland Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms. Emily serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition, the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working, and the Maryland Tobacco Free Kids Coalition. She also serves on the Steering Committees for the Maryland Pesticide Action Network and Marylanders for Open Government. Emily lives in Baltimore with her husband, children, and dog.

Today we testified in support of the PFAS Protection Act. A bill sponsored by Senator Sarah Elfreth and Delegate Sara Love. You can learn more about the bill here. This is our testimony.

We support SB195/HB22 to restrict the use and disposal of PFAS chemicals. PFAS chemicals are polluting our waterways and drinking water and putting public health at risk. 

  • This bill does not ban PFAS in all uses. 
  • This bill is based on existing laws in other states and market trends, catching Maryland up with some of our peers in addressing this growing crisis. 
  • PFAS chemicals are not essential in the products in this bill.
  • Our nation’s leading experts on PFAS exposure have called for regulating these chemicals as a class and stopping non-essential uses because of the risks they pose to public health.

We have an uphill battle in front of us to clean up PFAS from our communities and waterways. In order to address the problem, we need to stop new contamination, which this bill can help do. In the years to come, the state will be facing challenges to address PFAS contamination through testing and remediation, and this is a good start. 

What’s in the bill:

Turns off the tap on new contamination: stops the use of PFAS in firefighting foam (like WA, NH, CA), food packaging (like NY, WA, ME), and in rugs and carpets. In all of these areas there are safer alternatives to PFAS.

Protects our air and water by banning the mass disposal of these chemicals by incineration (NY) and landfilling (CA).

Seemingly every week we are hearing about more communities across the country who have been exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS in their drinking water. In Maryland, we know there is contamination in drinking water and near many military bases, including right here in Annapolis. Recent testing has also found alarming levels of PFAS in water and seafood.

As explained in the Bay Journal,“In the six-state Chesapeake Bay watershed, there are at least 18 sites where PFAS have been detected. That could mean that relatively few industrial facilities in the region have made or used PFAS — or it may mean that no one’s looked very hard.”

PFAS are still widespread in both production and use. Safeguarding against PFAS chemicals as a class is the best way to protect human health. Trying to regulate one chemical at a time will only leave us in an endless game of whack-a-mole. Marylanders deserve the same public health protections from PFAS that we see in other states. Maryland firefighters shouldn’t have to suffer from exposure to toxic chemicals, especially when there are safer alternatives.

In 2022, we hope the legislature will take further action on PFAS. We need to ensure Maryland has the legal framework to hold polluting industries accountable for the pollution they produce and the harm they cause, we need robust water testing to identify the extent of the problem, and we need to clean up contamination where it exists.

Firefighting Foam

In particular, the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS, no longer makes sense. PFAS foam puts our water at risk. It also endangers our firefighters, who are at increased cancer risk due to exposure to PFAS. In fact, cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters in the United States, according to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network and the International Association of Fire Fighters.

There are already safer alternatives to PFAS foam on the market. Many states, the U.S. Military and the EU are already moving away from using PFAS fire fighting foam completely.

Industry Movement

Due to public demand, major retailers are eliminating PFAS from key product lines, but there are laggards in the market. In order to ensure we protect the public it is time for state action. 

  • Grocery chains including Giant, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Amazon, and Hannaford’s have all committed to eliminating PFAS from their packaging.
  • Fast food chains McDonald’s, Chipotle, Taco Bell, Panera, Cava, and Sweetgreen have all made commitments to phase out PFAS food packaging, and testing has confirmed that PFAS use is not universal in fast food food packaging.
  • Home Depot and Lowe’s have announced their commitment to end sales of carpeting treated with PFAS. And Staples has announced a policy to eliminate PFAS from stores.

We urge a favorable report. Thank you.

Maryland PIRG

 

Arundel Rivers Federation

Blue Water Baltimore

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Climate Exchange

Environment Maryland

Food and Water Watch

Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights

Maryland Conservation Council 

Maryland League of Conservation Voters

Maryland Pesticide Education Network

Maryland United for Peace and Justice

Mom’s Organic Market

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility 

Safe Skies Maryland

ShoreRivers

Strong Future Maryland

Sunrise Movement Baltimore

Trash Free Maryland

Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland

Waterkeepers Chesapeake

Emily Scarr
Maryland PIRG State Director

Author: Emily Scarr

Maryland PIRG State Director

(410) 467-9389

Started on staff: 2005
B.A., Vassar College

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Recently, Emily helped win small donor public financing in Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George's County, and Baltimore City; the Family and Firefighter Protection Act to ban flame retardants in children's products, furniture and mattresses; and, the Maryland Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms. Emily serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition, the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working, and the Maryland Tobacco Free Kids Coalition. She also serves on the Steering Committees for the Maryland Pesticide Action Network and Marylanders for Open Government. Emily lives in Baltimore with her husband, children, and dog.