Vermont Senate passes bill to protect Vermont firefighters and families from toxic chemicals
Mountain Times | May 27, 2020
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“On May 22, Vermont Senate passed legislation (S.295) to ban PFAS and other toxic chemicals from certain products. The bill is supported by firefighters, business groups, educators, public health and children’s advocates, and environmental groups. It now heads to the Vermont House for consideration.
Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters, noted: ‘S.295 takes important steps to turn off the tap of more toxic chemicals – particularly PFAS – coming into Vermont, which harm our people and contaminate our environment. During our current pandemic, we’re pleased the Senate took these reasonable steps to better protect Vermonters’ health.’
PFAS chemicals are linked to harmful health impacts including high blood pressure, thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancers, and suppressed immune system function. To make matters worse, these health effects can cause the body to react with a heightened response to immune system insults, such as Covid-19 infection.
‘Studies are starting to show that exposure to polluting chemicals can lead to higher death rates from Covid-19,’ said Hierl.
Bradley Reed, president of the Professional Firefighters of Vermont, noted: ‘Firefighters are more likely than the general public to be diagnosed with cancer and even more likely to die from cancer. Our members are crawling into a toxic soup of smoke, superheated gases, carcinogenic toxins, asphyxiants and chemicals that most of us are unable to pronounce. By removing toxic PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam and personal protective equipment, S.295 will help reduce the amount of carcinogenic chemicals our firefighters are exposed to.’
S.295 takes important steps to prevent more PFAS-containing products from being brought into the state. Despite the harm they can cause, PFAS chemicals continue to be used in a variety of products imported into Vermont, exposing the people who use those products. PFAS chemicals present further threats when those items are disposed of and chemicals leach into our water.
Elena Mihaly, senior attorney at Conservation Law Foundation, stated: ‘PFAS have been detected in Vermont’s drinking water, surface waters, and soils. We’ve made great strides in cleaning up this contamination, but just getting these substances out of our water and soils isn’t enough – we need to get them out of our everyday products so they can’t contaminate our environment or make us sick.’
‘S.295 takes an important step to prevent some of the most common PFAS-containing products from entering our Vermont marketplace, protecting our health and the environment,’ added Mihaly.
‘PFAS toxins are incredibly scary because they don’t break down naturally, and once you’re exposed they can harm so many parts of your body,’ said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. ‘The only way to beat these so-called ‘forever chemicals’ is to cut down on exposure as much as possible.’
S.295 targets four different areas of consumer products that are major sources of PFAS exposure and environmental contamination: food packaging, firefighting foam, residential carpets and rugs, and children’s products.