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Scientists Successfully Head Off Concerning PFAS Bill

February 26, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS—The Indiana State Senate tabled legislation today that would have significantly narrowed the scope of which fluorinated chemicals are considered per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals,” in the state. This comes after leading scientists who study PFAS testified in committee hearings that the proposed definition was not scientifically sound. Adding weight to their objection was a consensus statement signed by more than 150 scientists clarifying the need for accurate and thorough PFAS definitions that government agencies and legislatures should use.

“This public health victory shows what happens when scientists contribute their expertise to the policymaking process,” said Marta Venier, an environmental chemist at Indiana University who testified in the hearings. “The whittled-down definition of PFAS proposed was not only scientifically inaccurate, but it would have set a harmful precedent that other states and governments could adopt.”

“I’ve studied PFAS in my lab for a decade, and I’ve never met a good PFAS,” said Graham Peaslee, a professor at the University of Notre Dame who also testified. “Cleaning up contamination can take decades to centuries or more. This bill would have been a mistake that the state cannot afford, both in terms of remediation costs and damage to the health and wellbeing of Hoosiers.”

The Indiana legislation would have specifically excluded fluoropolymers and fluorinated liquids and gases—some of the most widely used PFAS—from the definition of PFAS. The bill reflected efforts by the chemical industry to convince Indiana lawmakers that these chemicals are safe and essential, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Excluding these chemicals from the state’s definition of PFAS would exempt them from any future state policies restricting the use of PFAS.

The scientists’ statement recommends that governments use either the common States’ “one fully fluorinated carbon atom” definition or the very similar Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2021 definition, both of which cover the class of PFAS, including fluoropolymers and fluorinated gases.

Studied PFAS have been associated with cancer, decreased fertility, endocrine disruption, immune system harms, adverse developmental effects, and other serious health problems. Even if not directly toxic, fluoropolymers can release smaller toxic PFAS and other hazardous substances into the environment throughout their lifecycle, from production through disposal.

“All PFAS, including fluoropolymers and gases, are either extremely persistent in the environment or break down into extremely persistent PFAS,” said Lydia Jahl, a senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute who helped organize the statement. “The consequences of weak PFAS policies can reverberate for generations. It is great news for people and the planet that at least one such policy was blocked this week.”


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