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On Tuesday, the Maryland State Senate voted unanimously to pass the George Walter Taylor Act. Last week, the bill also moved out of the Seante Environmental and Health Committee unanimously. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senator Sarah Elfreth and Delegate Sara Love restricts the use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging and rugs and carpets and switches to safer alternatives for fire fighting foams. It also requires notification for firefighter turnout gear that contains PFAS and stops the landfilling and incineration of PFAS foam. An amendment was added to the bill to create a state buyback program for PFAS foam to help municipalities and counties with the financial burden of storing the toxic foam.
SB273/HB275 is named for George “Walter” Taylor, a 31 year veteran of the fire service who died from occupational health cancers linked to PFAS exposure. Cancer is the leading line-of-duty cause of death for firefighters, causing 75% of firefighter deaths according to the International Association of Fire Fighters.
The bill is championed by the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland and public health and environmental advocates, including Maryland PIRG, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and dozens of other groups.
When PFAS chemicals are used in fire fighting foams, rugs and carpets, and food packaging the leach into our water, air and food and accumulate in our bodies. They have been linked to harmful health effects, including cancer, thyroid disruption and reduced vaccine response. These chemicals also cling to, and penetrate, firefighter protective gear, leading to increased rates of exposure. They release cancer-causing chemicals when they burn, endangering firefighter health.
The House companion bill is currently being considered by the Health and Government Operations Committee.
In response, Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr released the following statement:
“The George "Walter" Taylor Act is a critical step to protect firefighters, our children and our children’s children from toxic “forever chemicals." The Maryland State Senate's unanimous support of this bill to restrict the use and disposal of toxic PFAS chemicals, which have been linked to cancer and other illnesses, should send a clear signal to the chemical industry that it's time to shift away from PFAS. We hope the House and Gov. Hogan will move quickly to move this bill into law. Sen. Sarah Elfreth and Del. Sara Love should be proud of their success in protecting Maryland firefighters and families from exposure to these chemicals."
Maryland PIRG is a statewide, non-partisan, non-profit, citizen-funded public interest advocacy organization with grassroots members across the state. For forty years we’ve stood up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. This includes a long history of protecting Marylanders from exposure to toxic chemicals in consumer products.
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