Taking aim at dangerous chemicals that build up over time in the environment and cause adverse health effects, a bill sponsored by Assemblywomen Shama Haider and Lisa Swain would limit the amount of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances—better known as PFAS—available on the market. The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee advanced the bill on Thursday.
PFAS are nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they do not break down easily in the environment or the human body. These synthetic chemical compounds have been widely used since the 1940s to make consumer products resistant to water, heat, and stains. PFAS can be found in Class B fluorinated firefighting foams, which are used to extinguish a fire in flammable liquids, combustible liquids, petroleum greases, tars, oils, oil-based paints, solvents, lacquers, alcohols, and flammable gases.
“PFAS pose a significant health risk to our communities, and you can find them in countless commonly used products. Once they get into our environment and waterways, they are there for hundreds or even thousands of years, contaminating our drinking water, soil, air, and food,” said Assemblywoman Haider (D-Bergen). “We have a responsibility to safeguard the health and well-being of our residents, and that means paving a path toward PFAS regulation in New Jersey. Phasing out the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam will help us shape a healthier, more sustainable future.”
The bill, A-4125, would prohibit the sale, manufacture, distribution, and use of any Class B firefighting foam containing intentionally added PFAS within the State. This would not apply to the sale, manufacture, distribution, or use of Class B firefighting foam for which the inclusion of PFAS is federally required.
The bill includes several temporary exemptions for the sale and use of these firefighting foams in certain situations, such as at oil refineries or petroleum terminals that use Class B firefighting foam containing PFAS for fire suppression on a storage tank for combustible or flammable liquids.
“New Jersey residents deserve clean drinking water and a healthy shared environment; however, PFAS put everything at risk, including the health, safety, and well-being of our firefighters. Long-term exposure to the harmful chemicals found in certain firefighting foams can have serious, detrimental health effects,” said Assemblywoman Swain (D-Bergen, Passaic). “By removing firefighting foams containing PFAS from the market, we are working towards a healthier, more environmentally friendly future for our State.”
A violation of the bill’s provisions would be an unlawful practice under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and would be punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 for the first offense and up to $20,000 for subsequent offenses.
The bill awaits further consideration from the Speaker.