Governor Andrew Cuomo Signs PFAS in Firefighting Foam ban into law

New York joins small handful of states in protecting firefighters and families from forever chemicals

(Albany, New York – December 23, 2019) – Governor Cuomo signed legislation today banning the use of PFAS in firefighting foam. The bill (S. 439-A Hoylman) / (A. 445-A Steck), which passed both houses nearly unanimously, prohibits any person, local government or state agency from discharging Class B firefighting foam containing PFAS in New York state. The policy also mandates that when firefighting personal protection equipment is sold, purchasers are provided written notice if the equipment contains PFAS chemicals, with a justification for its presence. The bill will be put into effect in 90 days.

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or 'PFAS' chemicals, do not break down once introduced to the environment or body. They are entirely man-made substances with thousands of formulaic variations, and have been linked to numerous chronic health hazards, including delayed puberty, infertility, liver and kidney damage, immune system toxicity, and cancer. Because of their persistence and ubiquity, PFAS chemicals – while a hazard in their intended setting – can also be detected in all environmental media, including air, water, soil and sludge. 

"New York is blessed to have environmental health champions at all levels of state leadership. We are so grateful for the support and leadership of Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Steck, Senator Hoylman, and so many others," said Kathleen Curtis, LPN, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York and Co-Leader of the JustGreen Partnership. "Fire fighters work hard to keep us safe every day; I couldn't be more honored to help return the favor."

Incidents of PFAS from firefighting foam leaking into ground water have occurred all across New York State. Just this year, tests conducted by environmental contractors for the City of Newburgh detected high levels of PFAS in Silver Stream, which flows into Moodna Creek and Hudson River. PFAS has contaminated the drinking water of an estimated 1.8 million New Yorkers.

“We applaud the Governor and Legislature for this important step in preventing additional contamination of our drinking water with toxic PFAS chemicals and creating safer working conditions for firefighters and other first responders in the face of the deplorable behavior of chemical manufacturers who continue to sell toxic PFAS foam despite the known health risks,” said Eve Gartner, staff attorney at Earthjustice. “We look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to further cement New York as a national leader in providing safe drinking water.”

"Toxic PFAS chemicals contained in fire-fighting foam have been linked to increased cancer risk, thyroid disease, learning delays in children, and decreased fertility," said Senator Brad Hoylman, sponsor of S.2000. "Spills of this foam have polluted New York's drinking water from Newburgh to Long Island. This new law will phase out the use of these chemicals and switch to safe alternative foams, reducing the exposure of first responders and communities across the State to PFAS chemicals. It’s the latest example of how our new majority, led by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has been able to pass legislation to protect the public health and environment. I’m grateful to Governor Cuomo, my Assembly sponsor Phil Steck and the passionate environmental advocates whose hard work helped make this new law possible.”
 

“These ‘forever chemicals’ have contaminated the drinking water of millions of New Yorkers," said Assemblymember Phil Steck, sponsor of A.445A. "In addition to dealing with associated human health concerns, including increased cancer risk, communities with PFAS-contaminated water face high costs for remediation and cleanup. This legislation will help protect both public health and the health of our fire fighters, which is why I am proud to sponsor this bill alongside Senator Hoylman.”

“There is literally nothing more important than the health and safety of our communities," said Rich Schrader, New York Legislative Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "With these robust measures, New York is rightly standing up to the shameless chemical industry and protecting our brave men and women in uniform from needless exposure to harmful toxins. This is a victory for all New Yorkers and for those who put their lives on the line every day. Families across the state can now rest a bit easier.”

“Most people are aware of the immediate dangers fire fighters face in their line of work, but may not realize the long-term risks associated with inhalation, dermal absorption, and ingestion of chemicals,” said Samuel A. Fresina, President of New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association, Inc. “Fire fighters show higher rates of certain types of cancers than the general U.S. population, some of which are linked to toxic PFAS. I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation to protect the hardworking heroes in our state from cancer-causing chemicals.” 

Similar legislation has been passed in Washington, Colorado, and New Hampshire. The measure was backed by the JustGreen Partnership, a coalition of over 50 groups representing over a million New Yorkers working for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities. 

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Clean and Healthy New York works for safer chemicals, a sustainable economy, and a healthier world. It co-leads the JustGreen Partnership, over 50 organizations working for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities, and leads the national Getting Ready for Baby campaign working to ensure all baby and children’s products are free of harmful chemicals.

The JustGreen Partnership is a coalition of about 50 groups representing nearly a million New Yorkers, all working together for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities. The Partnership focuses on transforming the policies that govern how chemicals are regulated or marketed in the great State of New York. Through our work, we are building a better movement for health and environmental justice in New York State.

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