Maine Takes Action on 'Forever Chemicals' - Is It Enough?
Do you think the government is doing enough to address toxic chemicals?
Updated May 24, 2023
- Maine is planning to end the use of PFAS in the sewage sludge currently used as fertilizer in the state.
- The family of toxic "forever chemicals" is found in high concentrations in sewage sludge and is poisoning agricultural produce, waterways, and farmland across the country.
- Sewage sludge, marketed as "biosolid," is a byproduct of the water treatment process, and it used to be dumped into the ocean before it was implicated in creating oceanic dead zones.
- The EPA then approved its use as fertilizer due to the concentration of valuable nutrients it contains.
- The environmentalist organization, the Sierra Club, has described sludge as "the most pollutant-rich manmade substance on earth."
- Portland Water Service director Scott Firmin said:
“The safe disposal of [sewage sludge] is critical to safeguarding the environment and protecting public health. We are leaving no stone unturned as we seek innovative and economical solutions to tackling the nationwide threat of PFAS."
- Public health advocates are still unsure about the efficacy of the PFAS-destroying technology that Maine plans to utilize.
- Nancy Raine from the Sierra Club said:
“Many other states are going to be facing what Maine is facing now."
What are 'forever chemicals?'
- Several state laws and corporate policies are being introduced to regulate PFAS, known colloquially as "forever chemicals," because they persist in the environment for centuries.
- PFAS are a class of about 9,000 compounds used to make products and materials resistant to water, heat, and stains. They are frequently found in food packaging, cookware, waterproof clothing, cosmetics, mattresses, carpets, electronics, and countless other consumer goods.
- Researchers have found that 98% of the population has a detectable amount of these toxic, carcinogenic chemicals in their blood.
What are corporations doing?
- 3M, one of the world's largest PFAS producers, announced it would stop making the chemicals, pointing to "accelerating regulatory trends focused on reducing or eliminating the presence of PFAS."
- Various companies are phasing out PFAS in some or all of their products. According to the Guardian, these include Abercrombie & Fitch, Burberry, Burger King, Calvin Klein, Home Depot, H&M, Lowe's, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Rite Aid, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Target, and Whole Foods.
- Shareholder pressure is mounting — investors managing $8 trillion in assets have written to the world's largest chemical companies demanding they cease production.
What are states doing?
"We've seen some corporate leadership on PFAS, but the actual state policies that say 'No, you have to do this' – those are great incentivizers."
- 10 states have prohibited PFAS in some food packaging, and several have banned it in cookware. 15 states have banned or heavily regulated firefighting foam because it is high in PFAS and poses a risk to waterways.
- California has banned PFAS in cosmetics, personal care products, clothing, and food packaging. Similarly, Maryland and Colorado have banned PFAS in cosmetics and personal care products, while Washington has banned PFAS in all clothing.
- New York banned intentionally-added PFAS in food packaging under the Hazardous Packaging Act. Vermont's Senate unanimously approved a PFAS ban for cosmetics, textiles, and artificial turf. Maine has banned all non-essential uses of PFAS and has the strictest regulations of any state.
- Mike Schade from Toxic-Free Future said:
"If we get more companies to act, that builds more political support for action at the state level to regulate and restrict harmful chemicals like PFAS. At the same time, more states acting will create more pressure on businesses to take action ahead of state policies."
- You can find a comprehensive table of state-by state-bans here.
What are the challenges?
- The influence of chemical industry lobbyists has thwarted bipartisan congressional attempts to pass legislation controlling toxic substances.
- Proposed bills targeting products that pose the most significant consumer risk, like cosmetics, food packaging, clothing, and cookware, failed in recent sessions.
- Liz Hitchcock, federal policy director at Toxic-Free Future, illustrated the issues of state-by-state patchwork legislation:
"It would not make sense to not use the cancer-causing chemical in California and New York, but go ahead and use it in Texas."
"We can't depend on just that – we need the federal government and Congress to act."
Do you think the government is doing enough to address toxic chemicals?
Feds Claim Civil Rights Violation on Waste System in Black CommunityWhat's the story? Lowndes County, Alabama, a majority Black community, has long been relying on outdated pipes to pump human read more... Environment
Biden Admin Seeks to Change Misleading Recycling LogoWhat's the story? The familiar recycling logo, with its triangular chasing arrows, has been a universal symbol for five decades. read more... Environment
AI's Risk to Democracy - TrackerGenerative AI poses a significant risk to democracy. One that we need to address rapidly before significant harm is done. Most read more... Artificial Intelligence
Countries Are Banning Vapes - Should More Do the Same?What’s the story? Countries worldwide are introducing legislation to ban or restrict vapes due to concerns over their popularity read more... Food & Agriculture
"Researchers have found that 98% of the population has a detectable amount of these toxic, carcinogenic chemicals in their blood."
No, our government is not doing enough to protect our health and safety.
It seems like our governments are starting to take these toxic chemicals more seriously now, but it might be too late; we've found them in nearly everything.
I hope that the recent actions taken by the EPA will help to stop the production and spread of these chemicals, but I'm sure we could do more.
This will be a long good bye to the forever chemicals.
Toxic chemicals are necessary for some processes. Control MSDS etc.
Systematic reviews and meta-analysis has identified PFAS (4700 human-made fluorine-rich molecules) detectable in human blood and attributable to increases in 13 medical conditions (high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, impaired immune function, kidney and testicular cancer, breast cancer, infertility, low birth rate, childhood obesity, diabetes, thyroid function) costing anywhere from $6B to $63B in healthcare costs. While PFAS have been banned in Europe they are still produced in other countries.
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAs) are man-made chemicals developed to be resistant to fire, oil, grease, water, stains that are found in a wide range of consumer and industrial products, including non-stick cookware, stain repellants, dental floss, cleaning products and cosmetics.
The chemicals are discharged from PFAS manufacturing and processing facilities or high use facilities (airports, military installations, etc).
Once they enter the environment and source water, PFAS compounds cannot be removed by the water treatment process. Its estimate that 18–80M people are exposed to at least 10 ppt of PFAS, and 200M+ are exposed to concentrations of 1 ppt or higher in tap water in the US like my county.
Our state says there are few sites in state, and are upstream of drinking water sources.
The EPA does not regulate PFAS compounds but maintains a health advisory which is the only federal standard of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for two of the most common compounds: PFAS which is one drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
In 2020 testing resumed of my county (and the neighboring county) filtration plants which identified 2 compounds (Perfluorohexanoic acid and Perfluorooctanoic acid) at levels barely above the minimum reporting level of 1.8 parts per trillion - well below the EPA's health advisory level of 70 ppt.
Testing is done quarterly and reports are posted to the water company website serving our county and the neighboring county.
“study identifies at least $5.52 billion in annual disease burden and associated social costs of current annual exposure to long-chain PFAS with our sensitivity analyses revealing as much as $62.6 billion. Regulatory action to limit ongoing PFAS use and remediate contaminated water supplies may produce substantial economic benefits.”
“Although PFOA and PFOS have been added to the Stockholm Convention and PFOA use has been banned in the EU, they are still being released into the environment and are still being produced in other countries. Furthermore, both chemicals persist in the environment due to their chemical stability, resulting in ongoing human exposure”
There are already sufficient laws on the. Books. Let's try enforcing them
Can someone please explain the meaning of toxic chemicals to SCOTUS?
good for maine for doing the right thing. too bad the supreme court is making it much harder the nation to do the right thing. the supreme court sucks supremely.
NO! NO! NO! It's all about the profit margin, greed, and large donations and other perks regarding political control. Time for the average voter to take a stand against this danger to our freedoms and democracy.
Not even close.
We have started but need to do more.
The 94% that voted no, how many have backgrounds to know and understand the issue?
Just more sound bytes to make your case built on emotions
DOW corporation owes us all!! everything now has microplastics in it, you, me, polar bears in Antartica...we all have plastic in our blood. A compound used to make teflon is also in everything now. where is the accountability?!?!
apperantly, it okay to poison the globe if its profitable.
but i expect they are doing their best under the circumstances.
Stop allowing corporations to but members f Congress and put people and the planet first!
The Government did nothing and is doing nothting about the spill in Palestine, Ohio except sweep it under the rug and then have the gall to distribute the chemicals all over Ohio a red state.
The sheer incompetence just continues to ring through. Too busy supporting China, insider trading and reaching out the left eh David Joyce. Reaching out to what??? They the epitome of wanna be elite marxists. Being middle of the road David is simply a sell out to radicals like Brown who supports China trained people to run our banks and every stupid leftist policy that erupts from the Dems. How are those Dem cities doing eh.. Boy there is someone to work with.
We are poisoning our ground water with toxic chemicals. We are harming future generations. It must stop.
we need to defeat far right lobbyists
The U.S.A. has comparatively loose restrictions on chemicals because so many care more about the big corporations that are poisoning us than they do about our people.
Our leaders inaction on this issue gives me some sense of satisfaction knowing they and their loved ones are just as contaminated as the rest of us. But thanks for nothing, as always, legislators.
Industries that make these chemicals and use them have too much influence on the legislatures and regulatory bodies.
Change is difficult but necessary. "Forever" chemicals must stop being used or made ASAP. The best time to do it was years ago, but starting today would be good, too.
NO, I don't. The government doesn't want to limit the funds they get from businesses so as to gain their financial support for political campaigns no matter which side of the fence you sit on. Seems like they want to slowly kill us all off so as to gain control over those who come after us. We all have the right to live our own lives without the influence of others who think they are better than the rest of us through financial and material posessions. We are turning into a "me, me first" mindset all over the world. Again, We are all created in the IMMAGE of whatever God we may or may not believe in. Those in power need to get their heads out of their selfish arses, like yesterday. Until the common voter starts voting for the changes needed within our system, all this will continue and end up destroying us. We need to fire them all and install fresher, open minded individuals in their place. If they can't live up to what they claimed,then get rid of them as well. As any gunslinger from the old west will tell you, there is always, ALWAYS someone just around the next bend that will be better than you. Think about that.