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Chemical Regulation

Washington moves to ban poly- and perfluorinated chemicals in food packages, firefighting foams

by Cheryl Hogue
March 26, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 13

Washington is poised to become the first U.S. state to outlaw the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in food containers and packages and in certain firefighting foams. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed legislation on March 21 that could halt the sale or distribution of paper-based food packaging such as cups, wrappers, and bags containing intentionally added PFASs, chemicals that persist in the environment and may be hazardous. First, though, the state’s Department of Ecology must study whether safer alternatives to PFASs are available, and its assessment must be peer reviewed. The final determination is due Jan. 1, 2020. If the study concludes safer alternatives are available, the ban will kick in two years later. Inslee is expected to sign a second bill the week of March 26 that will prohibit the sale or distribution in Washington of film-forming firefighting foams with intentionally added PFASs as of July 1, 2020. It exempts foams used at chemical plants or oil refineries. Firefighting foams are believed to be the source of two potentially toxic PFASs—perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid—discovered in drinking water wells in several Washington communities. This legislation also requires sellers of gear worn by firefighters to notify buyers in writing if the equipment contains PFASs and, if so, why the chemicals were added.


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