Legislators, Advocates Urge Swift Action on Bills to Protect NYers from PFAS “Forever Chemicals”

Legislators, Advocates Urge Swift Action on Bills to Protect NYers from PFAS “Forever Chemicals”

ALBANY, NY  — Recently legislators and the PFAS-Free New York coalition gathered in Albany to call for urgent action to pass package of bills for the 2024 legislative session that might curb PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination in New York State. The bills call for eliminating PFAS in key consumer and household products (A3556A/S5648-A), in personal care and cosmetic products (A6969/S4265), and in menstrual products (A5990/S3529); as well as a bill to track the levels of PFAS in effluent released into waterways (A3296A/S227-B).

Addressing PFAS contamination in the environment and human bodies begins with the elimination of everyday items that utilize these chemicals, like cookware, dental floss, paint, tampons, and more. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they are extremely resistant to breakdown, or break down into other persistent PFAS when they do; they accumulate in humans and the environment; and they move easily through the environment. New York has already passed a number of bills cracking down on PFAS, including phasing out PFAS in firefighting foam and paper-based food packaging, and most recently banned it in apparel and carpets.

Over 3,400 public water systems in New York State have tested positive for PFAS chemicals, about 250 public water systems have exceeded the state’s PFOA and PFOS maximum contaminant levels, and about 50% of public water systems have detected some level of PFAS contamination. The United States. Geological Survey discovered at least 45% of the nation’s tap water. PFAS exposure has been linked to a wide range of health risks, including cancer, hormone disruption, liver and thyroid problems, interference with vaccine effectiveness, reproductive harm, and abnormal fetal development. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approximately 98% of people living in the United States. have PFAS in their blood.

PFAS-Free New York, a broad coalition of PFAS advocates and impacted community members, have come together to continue the fight for a PFAS-free New York. PFAS-Free New York includes Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Clean Air Action Network of Glens Falls, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Clean+Healthy, Earthjustice, Environmental Advocates NY, JustGreen Partnership, Natural Resources Defense Council, Newburgh Clean Water Project, New York League of Conservation Voters, New York State American Academy of Pediatrics Chapter 3, New York Sustainable Business Council, PFOA Project NY, Riverkeeper, Rockland Water Coalition, Seneca Lake Guardians, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

The following are quotes from PFAS-Free New York members and/or speakers at today’s press event in Albany:

“PFAS are among the most toxic and harmful chemicals known to humankind and their presence in our fragile drinking water supplies is simply unacceptable. If we are going to be serious about safeguarding our residents from these contaminants, then we must be doing everything possible to eliminate their use and disposal in our environment. These bills banishing the use of PFAS in consumer products are a critical step forward in this regard,” said Senator Pete Harckham, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation committee.

Senator Hoylman-Sigal said, “PFAS are a cancer-causing class of chemicals that are harmful to both our children and our planet. We must do everything in our power to prohibit the sale of materials containing PFAS, which have been proven to lead to a higher risk of not only cancer, but also liver and thyroid problems, hormone disruption, and decreased bone health. Let’s pass our bills to ban PFAS from specific products, as we have in the past, with our legislation targeting anti-fogging sprays and wipes (S.992A), cosmetics (S.4265), and menstrual products (S. 3529A). But let’s also go a step further and pass our bill (S.5648A) that prohibits the sale of all products that contain intentionally added PFAS. It’s time to get these cancer-causing pollutants out of New York State.”

Said Senator Lea Webb, “I am proud to join this coalition to raise awareness of the critical importance to protect New Yorkers from toxic PFAS or ‘forever chemicals.’ PFAS and other toxic chemicals often found in cosmetics build up in the human body and are scientifically known to cause harm, increasing our risk of cancers, reproductive issues, neurological issues, and more. Studies show that BIPOC and femme-identifying women use more of these toxic products and are the target audience for the marketing tools designed to increase their use. It is critical that we enact protections against the dangerous chemicals found in the products we use on our bodies every day, chemicals which we know can lead to devastating health impacts.”  

“As we continue to learn more about the harmful impacts of PFAS chemicals, it is crucial that the legislature take action to limit their use. These forever chemicals are seen in numerous products and have ultimately ended up in water supplies across the state. I am proud to sponsor legislation to phase out their use in consumer and household products and am committed to working with my colleagues to pass this bill and protect New Yorkers,” said Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski.

“Decades of research have made clear that continued exposure to PFAS is detrimental to our health. Consumers must be able to purchase everyday items  without worry that the products contain harmful ‘forever chemicals,’ especially menstrual products,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF – Manhattan), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing. “Consumers might be alarmed to learn that some of the ingredients in their menstrual products are the same toxins used in cigarettes, pesticides and even dynamite. People who menstruate use thousands of products over the course of their life and should not have to expose themselves to harmful substances in the process. This session, I will be working alongside 

“PFAS are a dangerous class of chemicals that can stay in the environment and our bodies for years. Because of this and their prevalent use in everyday household items like dental floss, cookware, make-up, and cleaning solutions we are continually exposed to PFAS,” said Kate Donovan, Northeast Regional Lead of Environmental Health at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “It’s time to get serious about wide-spread exposure to these chemicals in New York, and advance policies that turn off the tap to its production and use.”

“For too long, PFAS has flooded our products, drinking water, and environment unconstrained, leaving people sick, hurting, or in peril. We urge lawmakers to make 2024 the year New York says ‘no more’ to these ‘forever chemicals.’ The known cost of cleaning up PFAS in our soil and water just keeps growing, and every day we learn some new way that PFAS can harm our health,” said Bobbi Wilding, Executive Director of Clean+Healthy and co-leader of the JustGreen Partnership. “We must turn off the tap on these toxics, to protect our health, our environment, and our economy.”

“PFAS is an environmental justice issue because studies are finding that race and product use by race are key factors in determining levels of exposure to these harmful chemicals,” explained Elizabeth Reyes, Toxics Policy Campaigns Coordinator at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “That is why we urge New York State to pass these bills, which will reduce PFAS exposure for all New Yorkers – and especially those who already face higher rates of exposure to nearly all toxic chemicals.”

“We must do better for ourselves, our children and future generations!  We are inundated with childhood cancer and so several other illnesses. We must do everything we can to ensure clean food, water, body products, household products and more. Please eliminate all PFAS chemicals to keep our families healthy,” said Tistrya Houghtling, New Lebanon Town Supervisor & Minority Leader of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.

“As a lifelong NYer, born and raised in the City of Newburgh, I understand too well the devastation my family and community at large has experienced from decades long exposure to PFAS contamination running off the Stewart Air National Guard Base,” said Jennifer Rawlison, advocate from the Newburgh Clean Water Project. “I implore state leaders to ensure that my family does not continue to be harmed by exposure to PFAS chemicals lurking in everyday household products and cosmetics. Good policy can limit these exposures and ensure healthier, safer lives for all New Yorkers.”

“Toxic PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous in our waterways and our bodies, posing an unacceptable risk to our environment and public health,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE). “We can no longer tolerate or condone the unnecessary use of these chemicals that are highly toxic and simply dangerous. The safest, least expensive, and most effective path forward to halt this threat is to stop these harmful chemicals at their source—New York State must move quickly to ban all non-essential uses of PFAS, beginning with the suite of bills we are supporting today.” 

“The plethora of health studies continue, practically weekly, to demonstrate how dangerous PFAS chemicals are to human health. Hoosick Falls is now, sadly, far from alone in being already overexposed by these toxins. Health officials and experts, including the CDC/ATSDR, as well as EPA, all suggest the best guidance is to avoid PFAS. Not one, or ten, but the entire class. We simply can’t follow this important guidance if we are continually barraged by these exposures in loads of products and various other routes. Passage of these bills will ensure we can take even more vital steps to further decrease the bioaccumulation in our already overburdened bodies, and will further protect the health of all New Yorkers from the devastating effects, that we know all too well, of these chemicals,” said Loreen Hacket, PFOA Project NY, Hoosick Falls.

“PFAS are pervasive and insidious compounds that have major implications for the health of our children, families, and communities with common exposures through drinking water, contaminated food and soil. PFAS are linked to numerous health issues including lower birth weights, altered timing of puberty in adolescents, and high blood pressure in pregnancy that can have serious effects during childbirth,” said Charles Moon, MD, Chief Resident, Social Pediatrics Residency Program at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore “These are real issues that physicians like me see in practice everyday and have real impacts on the lives of women, children, and their families and increase healthcare spending.” 

“As a resident of Cairo, NY, I am concerned about the PFOS that is in my drinking water due to a fire fighting training facility.  With every rain the PFOS numbers rise due to run off through the soil from prior contaminations into the creek that feeds the communities municipal wells,” added Mary Finneran, impacted citizen. “Both my husband and I have, what we believe are connected health issues, especially as we were unaware for several years of the dangers coming from our tap.”

Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water with Environmental Advocates NY, said, “Every New Yorker deserves clean, PFAS-free water. It is much cheaper to stop these forever chemicals from entering our environment rather than cleaning up pollution that’s already occurred. The PFAS Discharge Disclosure Act might require industries and other permitted facilities to monitor their discharges for PFAS, so New York can take action with that data to prevent these toxic chemicals from being dumped into our lakes, rivers, and groundwater. We look forward to working with the State Legislature to pass this bill and the rest of the PFAS legislative package to move towards a toxic-free New York.”

“The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter fully supports the widespread effort to stop the exposure of humans and wildlife to PFAS – these toxic ‘forever chemicals’,” said Kate Bartholomew, Chapter Chair, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “Ridding our environment of these ubiquitous toxins will improve public health and reduce the costs of healthcare and expensive filtration of drinking water. By passing the series of bills we are highlighting today, the NYS Legislature might help limit dozens of pathways of PFAS exposure for New Yorkers, offering a comprehensive way to turn off the tap on these chemicals that are extremely harmful, costly, and toxic on so several levels. We urge the Legislature and Governor Hochul to take action on this very important issue.”

“Our economy is being eroded by PFAS poisoning, and several of our businesses are directly impacted. New York has taken critical steps in banning PFAS in fire fighting foam, food packaging, and certain apparel. We must act more quickly and comprehensively to truly address this growing problem. A strong economy depends on the health of our citizens and natural environment,” said Bob Rossi, Executive Director of the New York Sustainable Business Council (NYSBC)

”Riverkeeper strongly supports action to prevent further contamination from PFAS chemicals. These chemicals persist in waterways, harming wildlife and poisoning water supplies which is why we support legislation to ban PFAS and specifically, the PFAS Discharge Disclosure Act,” said Jeremy Cherson, Senior Manager of Government Affairs for Riverkeeper. “This legislation will provide the first steps to understanding where PFAS chemicals enter our waterways at a statewide level. We thank the sponsors of the legislation included in the PFAS legislative package and urge the legislature to take swift action.” 

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Established in 1970, NRDC uses science, policy, law, and people power to confront the climate crisis, protect public health, and safeguard nature. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, Beijing and Delhi (an office of NRDC India Pvt. Ltd). Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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