Ban on ‘forever chemicals’ signed into law

 

STATE HOUSE — A new law sponsored by Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Sen. Meghan Kallman will ban so-called “forever chemicals” in Rhode Island.

The legislation (2024-H 7356Aaa, 2024-S 2152Aaa), which was signed into law Wednesday after passage by the General Assembly, will ban most Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) from products sold and manufactured in Rhode Island.

PFAS are 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.

“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.”

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.

“PFAS are called forever chemicals for a reason,” said Senator Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, Providence). “Thanks to this legislative action, we can stop pumping these harmful substances into our water, food and homes, where they remain forever, sickening our communities just to pad the profits of plastics companies.”

The new law will ban the addition of PFAS to most consumer products sold or manufactured in Rhode Island by Jan. 1, 2027, with additional products banned on Jan. 1, 2029. It will also ban the use of Class B firefighter foam containing PFAS by Jan. 1, 2025.

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.

“All of the products covered by this law 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.”

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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