Sen. Kallman sponsoring bill to ban ‘forever chemicals’
Bill will be heard in Senate Environment Committee today
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Meghan Kallman is 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 and have been shown to have detrimental health effects, especially for pregnant women and children.
“These are called forever chemicals for a reason,” said Senator Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, Providence). “It is profoundly irresponsible to be pumping these harmful substances into our water, food and homes, where they will remain forever, just so plastics companies can make a little more profit.”
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a family of manmade chemicals used in everything from carpets and frying pan coatings to firefighting foams. Because they are so prevalent and take a long time to break down, they are commonly found in the environment including in drinking water, food and personal care products.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that PFAS can have many detrimental health impacts including decreased fertility, developmental delays in children and cancer. But an in-depth 2018 report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found PFAS are far more dangerous than previously thought. The study found the EPA was significantly underestimating the levels of exposure to PFAS that are safe for children and adult, recommending dramatically reducing acceptable levels of PFAS exposure.
Senator Kallman’s legislation (2023-S 0016) would ban all uses of almost all PFAS in Rhode Island by December 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 criteria such as potential exposure to children or groundwater. By the end of 2032, the sale, manufacturing or distribution of all products with intentionally added PFAS would be prohibited. 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.
“PFAS chemicals are extremely toxic to people, and incredibly persistent in our environment, which is why strict state and federal standards are being adopted,” said Jed Thorp, Rhode Island state director for Clean Water Action. “But we're not going to get PFAS out of our water - and our bodies - until we get them out of products being sold in the state.”
The bill will be heard in the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture April 26. Representative Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) has introduced companion legislation (2023-H 5673) in the House.
“We keep hearing the same lies from the plastics industry that these chemicals are safe and good for the economy. But we’re all paying the costs of more cancer and sicker kids,” said Senator Kallman. “We must send a clear message: poisoning children is not an acceptable tradeoff for corporate profits.”