Augusta State Capitol, Maine. Photo: Ramona du Houx

May 4, 2021

Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, introduced two measures on May 3, 2021 that aim to protect the public from adverse health effects caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals.”

“As a social worker, my entire professional career has been spent advocating for the health and well-being of Mainers, particularly children,” said Rep. Gramlich. “We know these toxic chemicals have serious, lasting health and environmental impacts. It is imperative that we act, both by eliminating sources of exposure and contamination and by cleaning up the chemicals that have already accumulated in our drinking water and soil.”

LD 1503 would phase out the use of PFAS in consumer and industrial products, requiring manufacturers to cease including PFAS in certain products by 2023 and in all products by 2030 unless the state classifies their use as unavoidable. LD 1505 would end the use of fire-suppressing foam used by firefighters that contains PFAS.

PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down, persisting and accumulating in the environment over time. These chemicals can be found in food packaging, cookware, textiles and other products. Studies indicate that exposure to PFAS can cause a range of adverse health effects, from reproductive harm to developmental issues to immunological effects. Limited findings link PFAS exposure to cancer and hormone disruption.

“Given the near indestructability of PFAS, the only way we are going to keep them out of our environment, out of our drinking water and out of our food is if we stop it at its source: that is, we eliminate use of this class of chemicals in food packaging, consumer products and all other uses that are not currently unavoidable,” Sarah Woodbury, director of advocacy for the group Defend Our Health, told the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“PFAS use is widespread, but the good news is that there are safe alternatives for the vast majority of uses,” said Rep. Gramlich. “My proposals put us on a reasonable timeline to stop our exposure to PFAS at the source.”

On Friday, May 7, Gramlich will present a third PFAS-related bill, LD 1600. That proposal would support the testing and monitoring of soil and groundwater for PFAS and other contaminants.

The Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold work sessions on all three bills in the coming weeks. Committee members will have the opportunity to propose amendments before voting on a recommendation to the full Legislature.

Rep. Gramlich is a longtime social worker and public health advocate who is currently serving her second term in the Maine House. She is a member of the Taxation Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

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