Testimony: Protecting Maryland Families and Firefighters from “forever chemicals”

Today we are testifying in support of SB273, the George "Walter" Taylor Act to protect Maryland families and firefightetrs from toxic "forever chemicals."

Health impacts of PFAS
photo courtesy of Alena Ozerova via Shutterstock

Today we are testifying in the Maryland State Senate Environment and Health Committee to support of SB273, the George “Walter” Taylor Act to protect Maryland families and firefighters from toxic “forever chemicals.”

Maryland PIRG is proud to stand with professional and volunteer firefighters across the state and dozens of public health and environmental groups to support this bill to protect our communities from PFAS exposure. You can review the testimony we submitted to the committee here.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Elfreth along with Senators Lam, Beidle, and Bailey as co-sponsors on this important bi-partisan legislation.

PFAS are a class of chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency says can cause harmful health effects in humans. PFAS are often called ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t break down in our bodies or our environment, and they have been linked to negative health impacts. When PFAS end up in our food and water, it puts our health at risk. Elevated levels of PFAS in blood has been associated with health concerns, including: cancer; thyroid disruption; and, reduced vaccine response. In December, Maryland PIRG Foundation released a report, The Threat of “Forever Chemicals,” which outlines how PFAS put Marylanders’ health at risk, and provides policy recommendations to respond.

According to our report, in the last year:

And until the state legislature acts to restrict these chemicals, PFAS will continue to contaminate our waterways and drinking water.

The PFAS protection act has the backing of local, state, and national public health and environmental groups. In communities across the state, folks are concerned about PFAS in our homes, our drinking water, and our seafood. 

The proposed policy is based on existing policy throughout the country and aligns with corporate trends in reducing PFAS uses, catching Maryland up in addressing this growing crisis. 

We likely have an uphill battle in front of us to clean up PFAS from our communities and waterways. 

In order to address the problem, we need to stop new contamination, which this bill can help do. In the years to come, the state will be facing challenges to assess the extent of contamination and to ensure we have the proper legal framework to hold polluting industries accountable for the cleanup and public health damage they have caused. 

The existing contamination in our drinking water, along with exposure in consumer products and food, poses a danger to health, especially for our children, and the occupational health hazard to firefighters is serious and growing. We are counting on our state legislators and Gov. Hogan to get ahead of this problem so we can minimize the harm to health and the environment.

Pass the George “Walter” Taylor Act

Pass the George “Walter” Taylor Act

We are calling on legislators to protect Maryland families and fire fighters health by restricting the use and disposal of toxic PFAS chemicals in Maryland. Please send a message to your state legislators today.

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Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Emily has helped win small donor public financing in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County. She has played a key role in establishing new state laws to to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms, require testing for lead in school drinking water and restrict the use of toxic flame retardant and PFAS chemicals. Emily also serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition and the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working. Emily lives in Baltimore City with her husband, kids, and dog.

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