Toxic Chemical Reform
In the winter of 2016, the toxic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was discovered in water supplies in Bennington County, Vermont. Subsequent testing has shown contamination in other regions of Vermont. This chemical was used to make a variety of products, including Teflon, and persists in the environment for decades. PFOA exposure is correlated with high blood pressure, thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer, and other health problems.
The PFOA contamination highlighted a systemic problem, where tens of thousands of chemicals are registered for use in the U.S. without adequate health and safety testing. Once public health concerns are identified, we have inadequate federal laws to regulate the use of chemicals. To address this gap, Vermont has enacted a number of laws through the years to ban harmful chemicals in consumer products, and to require reporting of chemicals of high concern in children’s products (Act 188). In 2016, the federal government updated the Toxic Substances Control Act, but those new regulations will take years to implement, and those programs are currently being run by an administration that is prioritizing corporate profits over public health.
Given the lack of federal action to protect our health from toxic chemicals, Vermont must continue working to improve protections for our families. The Vermont Legislature passed Act 154 in 2016, which established a Chemical Use Working Group. This group recommended a series of policy improvements to better protect our families and communities from exposure to toxic chemicals.
In 2017, several working group recommendations were advanced in S.103, which passed the Senate, was strengthened in the House, and awaits final action in the Senate. We urge passage of S.103, as well as continuing to make progress on other working group recommendations – particularly banning toxic chemicals like PFOA from food packaging, and giving better legal protections to Vermonters who have been harmed by exposure to toxic contaminants.
2018 Legislative Priorities:
- Pass S.103, which will:
- create an interagency committee to better coordinate chemical policies, develop recommendations to better achieve the public’s right to know which chemicals are being used in their community, and improve our program that aims to reduce manufacturers’ use of toxic chemicals;
- require testing of new private drinking water wells for harmful contaminants; and
- update the Toxic-Free Families Act (Act 188) to collect more user-friendly information on toxic chemicals used in children’s products, and improve the process for phasing out the use of harmful chemicals in these products.
- Restrict the use of toxic PFOA and closely related chemicals in food packaging.
- Strengthen legal remedies to help protect Vermonters who have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, and hold the polluters responsible.