Annapolis, Md (February 8, 2022) – In a virtual press conference today, Senator Sarah Elfreth and Delegate Sara Love, joined by the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland, announced their legislation that would limit the sale of firefighting foam, rugs, and carpets, and food packaging that contains intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, otherwise known as PFAS.
The speakers discussed public health risks associated with PFAS and PFAS bans in other governments and private industries. The legislation is named after 31-year veteran firefighter George “Walter” Taylor who passed away in 2020 due to PFAS-related cancer.
Walter Taylor was a strong advocate for protecting his fellow firefighters’ health and safety; however, after 31 years of service, he died of metastatic neuroendocrine cancer related to “occupational exposures.” As his widow remarked, “I can’t bring Walter back, but we owe it to him and the families of Walter’s fellow firefighters to do everything we can to reduce their exposure to PFAS and other cancer-causing chemicals.”
Grant Walker, representing the 10,000 Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland, reported that his organization is committed to preventing deaths like Taylor’s. He shared that the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for firefighters is cancer, causing 66 percent of these fatalities. Although current laws ban the use of foam containing PFAS for firefighter training purposes, Walker stated that the next step must be passing SB 273/HB 275 to eliminate these cancer-causing agents from Maryland firefighters’ everyday lives. “It’s time for Maryland to add additional protections for those who protect us,” said Walker.
Senator Elfreth emphasized, “PFAS is a ‘forever’ chemical that is everywhere in our state, including our waterways.” The senator continued, “This is a bipartisan, common-sense bill to limit PFAS. It is important for the state of Maryland to take action just as other states and private companies have done.”
The legislation is similar to laws passed in other states including CA, CO, IL, ME, NH, NY, VT, WA, and builds on PFAS regulations by multinational corporations such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Chipotle, Levi Strauss & Co., H&M Group, and more.
“This legislation is just a first step, not a policy reach,” Delegate Love commented about her bill. “Each piece of these bills has been passed into law in multiple states. It’s about preventing more PFAS from being added to the water and the environment, and stopping a significant community health problem from getting worse.”
In discussions related to the bill, Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr stated, “When I give my toddlers a drink of water, there’s a very good chance they are being exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals.” Scarr continued, “I hope the Maryland legislature and Gov. Hogan will take immediate action to protect our families and firefighters from these toxic “forever chemicals” by passing the George Walter Taylor Act.”
Senator Sarah Elfreth’s bill SB 273 was heard in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Committee last week. Delegate Sara Love’s bill, HB 275, will be heard in the House Health & Government Operations Committee on Feb. 9 at 1 p.m.