This legislation bans the use, manufacture, sale, and distribution of firefighting foam containing intentionally added perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS chemicals. This bill would eliminate a major source of drinking water contamination and encourage the adoption of PFAS-free alternatives.
The danger that PFAS chemicals pose to human health is well-known. Recent studies, including one from March 2019, have shown that PFAS chemicals are associated with detrimental health effects such as cancer, hormone disruption, liver and kidney damage, developmental and reproductive harm, and immune system toxicity. There is likely no safe level of exposure to these chemicals for our most vulnerable populations.
PFOS, one chemical in the PFAS class, has been widely used in class-B firefighting foam designed to fight flammable liquid fires. Because substitutes created to replace PFOS, such as GenX, pose similar toxicological dangers, banning the whole class of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam is necessary.
Multiple water contamination events in New York have been caused by PFAS firefighting foam, which easily seeps into lakes, rivers, and groundwater. Newburgh’s drinking water was polluted by firefighting foam containing PFOS, used and stored at Stewart Air National Guard Base. Recently, PFAS firefighting foam spilled into Silver Stream in Newburgh, which flows to the Moodna Creek and Hudson River. Earlier this year, the Hampton Bays Fire Department on Long Island was designated a state Superfund site due to groundwater contamination by PFAS foam.
Washington State has already passed a ban on PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam, and state legislatures in Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia have passed similar bans. PFAS-free foams are readily available on the market. Airports in London, Copenhagen, and across Australia (as well as the armed forces of Denmark and Norway) have all made the switch. It’s time for New York to ban these toxic chemicals in firefighting foam.
This bill amends the executive law by banning the use, manufacture, sale, and distribution of firefighting foam containing intentionally added PFAS chemicals two years after the effective date, and for training purposes immediately after the effective date.