May 15, 2021
The Legislature’s bipartisan Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously on May 12th to advance a package of bills sponsored by Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, that aim to protect the public from adverse health effects caused by toxic PFAS, known as “forever chemicals.”
“This strong bipartisan support is such an important step toward protecting the health and well-being of Maine people from the harmful effects of PFAS exposure,” 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 1600 requires the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to prioritize testing soil and groundwater for PFAS and other contaminants where sludge has historically been spread. It would also require the department to begin testing leachate for PFAS and to make its findings public.
Rep. Gramlich’s third bill, LD 1505, would end the use of fire-suppressing foam used by firefighters that contains PFAS.
The committee’s votes came shortly before Governor Janet Mills unveiled her proposal for the second part of the biennial budget, which includes $40 million in funds to remediate PFAS contamination in Maine’s water and soil.
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.
Exposure to PFAS has been linked to a range of adverse health effects, from reproductive harm to developmental issues to immunological effects. They may also be linked to cancer and hormone disruption. That probability is high.
“PFAS use is widespread, but the good news is that there are safe alternatives for the vast majority of uses,” said Gramlich. “My proposals put us on a reasonable timeline to stop our exposure to PFAS at the source.”
The measures face additional votes in the coming weeks.
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.