Sen. Kallman, Rep. Cortvriend introduce legislation to ban ‘forever chemicals’

 

STATE HOUSE – Sen. Meghan Kallman and Rep. Terri Cortvriend are sponsoring legislation to ban so-called “forever chemicals,” a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s that have detrimental health effects, especially for pregnant women and children, and have been shown to disrupt fertility and endocrine function.

“PFAS are called forever chemicals for a reason,” said Senator Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, Providence). “Without legislative action, we will continue to pump these harmful substances into our water, food and homes, where they will remain forever, sickening our communities just to pad the profits of plastics companies.”

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a family of man-made chemicals used in everything from carpets to frying pan coatings to firefighting foams. Because their use is so pervasive and they take so long time to break down in nature, they are commonly found in the environment, including in drinking water, food and personal care products.

“Virtually every American has PFAS in their blood, absorbing it through the water they drink, their clothes and their nonstick pans,” said Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown). “With the exception of firefighting foam, this bill is purposely limited to consumer goods. We know that alternatives to PFAS exist and the goal of this bill is to require manufacturers to adopt those safer alternatives in their manufacturing processes.”

According to an overview study published in 2021 and an open letter from 171 scientists, all well-studied PFAS have been shown to have a wide range of adverse effects on human health, including altered immune and thyroid function, liver disease, kidney disease, adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes and cancer.

The legislation introduced by Senator Kallman and Representative Cortvriend (2024-S 2152, 2024-H 7356) would ban the addition of PFAS to most products sold or manufactured in Rhode Island by Jan. 1, 2027, and would ban all uses of almost all PFAS by Dec. 31, 2032. The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) would be tasked with prioritizing which products containing intentionally added PFAS should be banned first based on the likelihood they will contaminate groundwater and soil. Exceptions would be made if DEM determines the use of PFAS is essential for the health, safety or the functioning of society if safer alternatives are not feasible.

“All of the products covered by this legislation are products for which safer alternatives exist and products where other states have already taken action,” said Jed Thorp, Rhode Island director for Clean Water Action. “Removing toxic PFAS chemicals from common everyday products is essential to protect the environment and public health.”

This legislation was heard in the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee Wednesday and in the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Thursday.

“Every year we hear from the plastics industry that these chemicals benefit our economy. But the cost of continuing to use these chemicals are more cases of cancer and more sick kids,” said Senator Kallman. “We won’t trade our children’s health for higher corporate profits.”

Representative Cortvriend and Senator Kallman previously sponsored and cosponsored legislation (2022-H 7438A, 2022-S 2044A) that became law in 2022 banning PFAS in food packaging.

 

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