Durbin, McCollum Introduce Bill to Mitigate Use and Release of Toxic PFAS

More than 12,000 types of PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” have been identified

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN-04) today introduced new bicameral legislation to address the excessive use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) across the nation’s supply chain, which has led to the harmful compounds contaminating water sources, infiltrating surrounding environments and communities. The Forever Chemical Regulation and Accountability Act would initiate a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study to review the persistence, bioaccumulation, and human health risks of PFAS and document current uses to provide guidance on designating essential uses.  The resulting guidance would be used to mitigate potential points of exposure and contamination while ensuring access to essential PFAS, such as those used in batteries and medical devices.  This legislation prohibits excessive, non-essential PFAS uses and releasesof any PFAS into air, water, or land.

The bill would also institute a realistic and manageable timeline of 10 years for PFAS manufacturers to stop production of all non-essential PFAS and to eliminate all PFAS releases from their facilities.  Further, the Forever Chemical Regulation and Accountability Act would address state statutes of repose and certain bankruptcy maneuvers to make sure those responsible for harms due to certain regulated substances, such as PFAS, do not evade liability.

“Protecting our environment and Americans from toxic hazards like PFAS is a matter of public health.  PFAS surround us.  They are in the pots and pans we cook with, in our drinking water supply, in the air we breathe.  We must act to ensure that harm brought on by these ‘forever chemicals’ is mitigated,” said Durbin.  “With the Forever Chemical Regulation and Accountability Act, we can work toward phasing out the unnecessary uses of PFAS, protecting consumers and our environment from the hazards of these chemicals.”

“Today, Senator Durbin and I are taking action to set a 10-year national deadline to eliminate PFAS where possible, while closely monitoring exemptions where it is currently unavoidable for certain critical purposes—in life-saving medical devices and advanced computing, among other uses with important medical and national security implications,” said McCollum. “This legislation builds on the leadership of Minnesota’s elected officials, who passed Amara’s Law to protect the health of our residents and confront environmental contamination through a ban on non-essential uses of PFAS. Our legislation would establish a federal ban, while also investing in research and ensuring thoughtful, science-backed safeguards that keep people safe and healthy. All across America, our communities deserve clean and safe water to drink, and I am proud to join Senator Durbin in introducing the bicameral Forever Chemical Regulation and Accountability Act.” 

The Forever Chemical Regulation and Accountability Act would:

  1. Initiate a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study to review the persistence, bioaccumulation, and human health risks of PFAS. The Academies would also identify current PFAS uses and provide guidance on classification of essential or non-essential uses, which will be used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require those designated “non-essential” be phased out;
  1. Require all PFAS manufacturers and users to file reports withEPA to disclose certain information relating to PFAS, and require manufacturers and users to submit a phase-out schedule of their products to be completed within 10 years;
  1. Direct EPA to facilitate phasing out non-essential PFAS production, consumption, and possession and prohibit manufacturers and commercial users from releasing any PFAS into the environment within 10 years;
  1. Establish deadlines for manufacturers to remove PFAS from certain consumer goods such as rugs, furniture, and child products;
  1. Reinforce that, to the maximum extent possible, PFAS should be eliminated from products or replaced by substitutes that reduce risk to human health and the environment.  The bill also would direct federal agencies to maximize resources to achieve this goal;
  1. Establish regional PFAS rapid response hubs to advance PFAS replacement and remediation;
  1. Require EPA to collect fees to administer the reporting and petition processes;
  1. Prevent large corporations from exploiting bankruptcy procedures to avoid persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals, including PFAS, claims, ensuring that individuals who have been harmed by such chemicals can have their day in court; and
  1. Update the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to toll state statutes of limitations and statutes of repose for newly-designated hazardous substances, such as PFAS, until the later of the date on which it was designated as a hazardous substance or when the plaintiff knew or reasonably should have known their injury was caused by the substance.

PFAS are a class of chemicals that are highly toxic and can even be harmful at low doses.  They are considered “forever chemicals” as they do not breakdown easily and can accumulate in people, food, and the environment.  People can be exposed by consuming PFAS-contaminated water or food or by using products that contain PFAS such as food packaging or non-stick cooking surfaces.  Despite preliminary evidence showing the chemicals’ toxicity as early as the 1960s, these dangers were not publicly known until the late 1990s.   It is estimated 99 percent of Americans have PFAS in their blood.  PFAS have been linked to serious illnesses, including several types of cancer, birth defects, and thyroid disease.

A section-by-section on the bill can be found here.

A one-pager on the bill can be found here.