Pennsylvania Wants To Ban “Forever Chemicals” Products

Pennsylvania has introduced House Bill 2238, aiming to ban per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often referred to as “forever chemicals,” from various consumer products by 2027. This legislation seeks to eliminate PFAS in items such as cleaning products, carpets, cookware, cosmetics, dental floss, food packaging, and children’s products.

The Ubiquity and Impact of PFAS

State Rep. Josh Siegel highlighted the widespread presence of PFAS, stating, “It is literally in just about every consumer product that we use and as a result of that 95 percent of us in the United States actually have some trace level of PFAS in our system.” PFAS have been used in numerous products since the mid-20th century due to their resistance to heat, water, and oil. However, they do not break down easily, leading to their accumulation in the environment.

A 2023 study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that about half of all U.S. tap water contains PFAS, with the highest levels in New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. These chemicals have been detected in soils, oceans, and rivers globally.

Maaike van Gerwen, director of research for the Department of Otolaryngology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, noted, “Because of the ubiquitous presence of PFAS in our environment, including water, soil, and food, almost the entire population is exposed on a daily basis and it is thus difficult to completely avoid exposure.”

Health Concerns and Legislative Responses

Research indicates that exposure to certain PFAS can cause developmental issues in infants and children, immune system effects, liver and kidney damage, and increased cancer risk. PFAS can enter the body through the skin and are present in the blood of most Americans.

Stephanie Wein, a clean water and conservation advocate for PennEnvironment, emphasized the need for the bill, stating, “Pennsylvanians should be able to trust the products being sold on the shelves are safe, and the protections offered in HB 2238 are long overdue.”

The bill also proposes a ban on PFAS-containing waterproof outdoor clothing by 2029 and plans to prevent the addition of PFAS to other products from 2033, with certain exemptions for medical devices. Seigel explained, “It gives them time basically to get ready for the prohibition.”

Opposition and Legislative Challenges

Despite its intentions, the bill faces opposition. Republican state Sen. Jarrett Coleman expressed concerns about the feasibility of enforcement without federal regulations and the potential financial impact on consumers. “While the bill’s intention is admirable, absent federal regulations on PFAS, some of the provisions would be unenforceable,” he stated.

Seigel acknowledged the need to address these concerns, stating, “One of my roles here is to work to make the bill palatable and passable by removing some of the industry components that would actually be unintentionally affected by this legislation.”

House Bill 2238 is yet to reach the floor for a vote, and discussions continue to refine the bill and address opposition concerns. If passed, the bill could set a precedent for other states to follow, contributing to broader efforts to reduce PFAS exposure nationwide.

Filter Your Water

For those concerned about PFAS in their water supply, reverse osmosis filtration and whole-home water conditioners offer viable solutions. Reverse osmosis systems effectively remove a wide range of contaminants, including PFAS, from drinking water. Whole-home water conditioners can further ensure that all water entering the home is treated, providing an additional layer of protection against these persistent chemicals.

Source: Newsweek