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 broader problem, where tens of thousands of chemicals are registered for use in the U.S. without adequate health and safety testing, and with inadequate federal laws to regulate their use. 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 will leave thousands of chemicals of concern on the market.
To examine existing state programs and identify gaps in our ability to protect public health, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 154 in 2016. This law established a Chemical Use Working Group, which recommended a series of policy improvements to better protect our families and communities from exposure to toxic chemicals. These policy recommendations include those highlighted in the Proposed Legislative Solutions, and can be found in full at: http://anr.vermont.gov/about_us/ special-topics/act-154-working-group.
2017 Legislative Priorities:
- Enact improved tools to collect information on where chemicals are being used, make that information publicly available, and enhance programs to help companies reduce their use of toxic chemicals.
- Restrict the use of toxic PFOA and similar chemicals in food packaging and dental floss.
- Update the Toxic-Free Families Act (Act 188) to collect more information on toxic chemicals being used in consumer products, and improve the process for restricting the use of harmful chemicals in products.
- Strengthen legal remedies available to Vermonters if they’ve been exposed to hazardous chemicals.