Read the full article by Rep. Christopher W. Babbidge (Seacoastonline.com)
“I had asked for assignment on the Natural Resources and Environment Committee in order to make well-researched decisions to protect air, water and public health. It was in that 123rd legislature that I got an education on ‘forever chemicals.’ We heard in-person testimony from high-powered experts, including chemical industry lobbyists from Louisiana and a world-renown South African endocrine specialist. The legislature took important action.
We passed an act to prevent infant exposure to harmful endocrine-disrupting bisphenol A and other phthalates.
When we heard firefighters testify that they feared for their health from their exposure to firefighting foam and the burning of stain-resistant fabric in mattresses, carpets and furniture, we addressed a bill authorizing rule-making to ban use of these specific flame-retardants whenever a safer alternative was available.
That same term we passed a Kids Safe Products bill to protect Maine children from toxic chemicals in children’s products. In April 2008, Gov. John Baldacci signed Hannah Pingree’s bill into law, Maine’s first-ever comprehensive chemical policy.
Forever chemicals are so called because of their long half-lives, being resistant to natural degradation. These 4,000 compounds, called PFAS, or poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are of concern because of their toxicity, mobility and bio-accumulation. The two most common of these, developed after World War II by 3M, were PFOS and PFOA. They are used in non-stick cookware, such as Teflon, which was manufactured in the U.S. for 50 years.
In 2016, the EPA issued the first drinking water Lifetime Health Advisory regarding PFOA and PFOS, identifying 70 parts per trillion as the level at which drinking water should not be consumed unless action to reduce exposure is taken.
Unlike drugs, new chemicals can enter the market without regulatory hurdles for safety, and in recent decades, the federal government’s EPA has been slow to act. Although they say it’s an ‘ongoing priority,’ the federal government has not officially designated PFAS as hazardous but instead as emerging contaminants, contributing to high cholesterol, decreased effectiveness of vaccines, thyroid disease, decreased fertility in women, kidney disease, testicular cancer, high blood pressure in pregnant women and low birth weight. Almost all of us have measurable PFAS levels in our blood that has accumulated in recent years…”