AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill requiring manufacturers to report their use of a class of toxic chemicals and phase them out by 2030 is now the law in Maine.
The law that took effect Thursday was one of several legislative proposals to address contamination by PFAS, short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which have long been used in a variety of consumer products.
Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, said she hopes the Maine law serves as “a model for other policy makers.”
“The more we study PFAS, the more we learn of their harm to human health,” she said. Maine should be congratulated for work towards eliminating unnecessary uses of PFAS in all products, she added.
PFAS substances are a class of thousands of chemicals that are used in products such as nonstick cookware, water- or stain-resistant textiles, grease-resistant food packaging and firefighting foam.
The chemicals are turning in well water across the state at levels 300 to 400 times higher than the federal health advisory level.
Last year, state regulators found PFAS levels more than 150 times higher than the state’s milk standard on a Fairfield dairy farm that had used contaminated sludge as fertilizer.
Mainers pleaded with lawmakers to help, and they responded with a series of proposals setting stricter PFAS pollution standards, allocating money to address contamination, and making it easier to sue polluters.
But the bill requiring the chemicals to be phased out altogether may be the most important of the PFAS bills, Dr. Lani Graham, a former chief public health officer for Maine, said previously. The bill contains an exception for cases where companies can demonstrate there are no alternatives.
“Turning off the tap, stopping the distribution of these chemicals into the Maine environment is critical,” she said.
A similar law adopted in Vermont to restrict the use, manufacture and sale of products containing PFAS went into effect July 1. However, the actual restrictions are a few years out.
Last year, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law a bill that sets some of the nation’s toughest drinking water standards for PFAS and provides tens of millions of dollars for cleanup costs.