Bay Area/ Oakland/ Politics & Govt
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Published on February 21, 2024
California State Senator Proposes Bold Legislation to Ban 'Forever Chemicals' by 2030Source: 9th Senate District

California State Sen. Nancy Skinner is taking a stand against "forever chemicals" with the introduction of a new bill to curb their widespread use, her office proclaimed. The proposed legislation, titled SB 903 or the Ending Forever Chemicals Act, seeks an eventual ban on the sale and utilization of products containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), unless the California Department of Toxics Substance Control (DTSC) confirms that no safer alternatives exist and their use is deemed vital for health and societal functioning.

Renowned for their resilience and persistence, PFAS have infiltrated water supplies, the food chain, and even human bodies, earning their notorious moniker. These chemicals are tied to several egregious health issues, including various cancers, and are commonplace in countless products, from clothing to kitchenware. "California will end the unnecessary use of forever chemicals and significantly reduce the harm PFAS poses to our environment and our health," Sen. Skinner declared, emphasizing the state's leadership in confronting this enduring menace.

SB 903 is structured to phase out all nonessential uses of PFAS by the year 2030, a move that holds both health and environmental benefits, as the production of PFAS contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. For scenarios where PFAS is considered necessary—when no alternatives are available, if they're indispensable to product function, and critical for health or societal stability—manufacturers can petition for a "currently unavoidable" designation, according to details from Skinner's office. This designation is renewable and must be accompanied by efforts to transition to safer substitutes.

Backing this initiative are various advocacy groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which reports at least 25.4 million Californians are being served water infiltrated by PFAS. “This bill is a sensible and comprehensive approach to phase out unnecessary uses of PFAS so that we stop adding to an already enormous problem,” stated Dr. Anna Reade, a senior scientist at NRDC, underscoring the bill's significance in combating the proliferation of these toxic contaminants. The bill has garnered support from organizations like the California Association of Sanitation Agencies and the Environmental Working Group.

Meanwhile, a recent U.S. Geological Survey estimates that nearly half of the nation's tap water is contaminated with forever chemicals. Exposures to PFAS are linked to high cholesterol and adverse effects on liver, kidney, immune, nervous, and reproductive systems, presenting a disturbing prevalence that SB 903 intends to confront. With detailed plans for DTSC to publicize each exempted use of PFAS and their expiration terms, Californians could see a significant reduction in their exposure to these harmful substances if the bill passes muster. As Skinner's office noted, this bill is not just about health, but it also contributes to the broader struggle against climate change by addressing an underacknowledged source of greenhouse gasses.