Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, joined her colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives in passing H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act, which included her amendment on the Environmental Protection Agency Safer Choice ‘slabel. The bill requires EPA to list PFAS chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals”, including PFOA and PFOS, as hazardous substances under the Superfund clean-up program within a year and to develop national drinking water regulations to test and monitor levels of PFAS in public water systems. The bill passed the House 247-159.
“These pervasive and dangerous chemicals pose serious risks to both human health and our environment. And the delay in taking action on them has been inexcusable. My amendment would expand the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice label to additional household products, including carpet, rugs, clothing, and upholstered furniture certified not to contain PFAS,” said Pingree, in a news release. “This change will prompt manufacturers to develop safer alternatives and help consumers find and buy healthier products. Consumers have the right to know what harmful chemicals are in their homes and should have the ability to choose products that keep their families and the environment safe.”
“Last year, I heard from hundreds of Central Virginians expressing their concerns about the harmful impacts of PFAS chemicals. These constituents have rightfully asked for Congress to take steps to lower the existing health risks to their families and their communities, and I agree that we are long overdue for action on this critical and pressing public health issue,” said Spanberger.“That’s why I’m proud to join with Congresswoman Pingree in expanding voluntary incentives for companies to reduce PFAS pollution in household items. By expanding the Safer Choice label to everyday products like utensils, rugs, and clothing, we would give American consumers more information to make smart choices that affect the health and safety of their families.”
According to EPA, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that for decades were the main ingredients in nonstick and waterproof coatings. PFAS are found in many products, including food packaging, household cleaners and nonstick cookware. Many PFAS don’t break down in the environment or in the human body.
Pingree’s amendment with Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., expands EPA’s Safer Choice label to household products like carpet, rugs, clothing, or upholstered furniture that don’t contain PFAS. Carpet is currently the number one source of PFAS exposure for young children, who spend lots of time sitting, lying, or crawling on carpets.
According to the Environmental Working Group, 297 military sites across the United States have PFAS contamination and as many as 110 million Americans are drinking PFAS contaminated water. Maine has several PFAS contamination sites, including the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, the former Loring Air Force Base in Aroostook County, and the Kennebunkport, Kennebunk, and Wells Water District.
As Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, Congresswoman Pingree helped to secure funding for scientific and regulatory work on PFAS in the FY2020 Interior Appropriations bill. She also led a letter to the NDAA conference committee in October to include strong PFAS provisions in the final bill.
Pingree’s floor speech in favor of her amendment is available online here.