Gov. Hogan to sign bill to restrict toxic ‘forever chemicals’

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gov. Larry Hogan will sign the George “Walter” Taylor Act into law Thursday. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by State Sen. Sarah Elfreth and Del. Sara Love, restricts the use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging, rugs and carpets, and replaces PFAS-laden firefighting foam with safer alternatives. It also requires notification for firefighter turnout gear that contains PFAS and stops the landfilling and incineration of PFAS foam. As amended, the bill will also create a Maryland Department of Environment takeback program to help municipalities and counties store the toxic foam, keeping it out of landfills and incinerators.

The bill (SB273/HB275) is named for George “Walter” Taylor, a firefighter for 31 years who died from occupational health cancers linked to PFAS exposure. Cancer is the leading line-of-duty cause of death for firefighters, causing 75% of firefighter deaths, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The bill is championed by the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland, public health and environmental advocates, including Maryland PIRG, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council and dozens of other groups.

“The George ‘Walter’ Taylor Act is a critical law to protect Maryland’s firefighters and families from these toxic ‘forever chemicals.’ Next, we need to protect our children and grandchildren from PFAS contamination in our state. This demonstration of legislators’ bipartisan determination to address this growing crisis is a powerful starting point for further action.” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr. “Senator Sarah Elfreth and Delegate Sara Love should be proud of their success in reducing Marylanders’ exposure to these dangerous chemicals, and we thank Governor Hogan for signing it into law.”

Commonly used in industrial processes and consumer products, PFAS chemicals leach into water, air and food and accumulate in the human body, where they have been linked to harmful health effects, including cancer, thyroid disruption and reduced vaccine response. These chemicals also cling to and penetrate firefighters’ protective gear, leading to increased exposure. When burned, PFAS release cancer-causing compounds, endangering firefighters’ health.

The new law will go into effect on July 1, 2022, although most of the restrictions won’t be implemented until January 1, 2024.

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Maryland PIRG is a statewide, non-partisan, non-profit, citizen-funded public interest advocacy organization with grassroots members across the state. For forty years we’ve stood up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. This includes a long history of protecting Marylanders from exposure to toxic chemicals in consumer products.

 

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