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Bill that would restrict PFAS in consumer products heads to governor

A black frying pan sits on a gas stovetop in bright lighting.
Nonstick pans are commonly made with PFAS or similar chemicals, which help with water and grease resistance. Lawmakers have approved a bill that would ban them in cookware, among other products.

The Vermont Legislature gave its final approval Tuesday to a bill that restricts toxic so-called "forever chemicals" in a suite of commercial goods.

The bill bans PFAS in clothing, makeup, menstrual products, diapers and nonstick frying pans starting in 2026. It also bans them in turf starting in 2028.

The tiny chemicals don't break down on their own and are increasingly ubiquitous in drinking water and the natural environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said virtually no level of exposure to them is safe, and the agency added the chemicals to its "Superfund" list this spring.

Paul Burns of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group said the bill will go a long way to protect Vermont consumers from chemical toxins.

"This legislation, I think, will stand as perhaps the most comprehensive legislation thus far passed in the country dealing with PFAS pollution,” he said.

The Vermont Senate and House voted unanimously to support the bill.

Sunlight comes in through a window onto a desk surrounded by six black chairs.
Sophie Stephens
Vermont Public
The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare room. Sen. Ginny Lyons, the committee chair, said moving forward legislation banning PFAS but not lead in cosmetics and menstrual products was a tough choice.

The policy also includes a first-in-the-nation ban on pthalates, formaldehyde and mercury in menstrual products, and it also restricts the chemicals in makeup.

It calls on the Vermont Department of Health to study a potential limit on lead in cosmetics and period products.

The lead issue proved controversial as the bill was finalized. An earlier version of the bill restricted lead in makeup and menstrual products and to 5 ppm, or parts per million.

According to the federal Food and Drug Administration, lead exposure from lipstick is of particular concern because people ingest lipstick when they lick their lips.

The federal government restricts lead in makeup to 10 ppm, and just two states have their own statutory limits below that level — Oregon and Washington. Washington restricted lead to 1 ppm in makeup as of the start of this year, and Oregon’s limit parrots the federal standard.

You can look up lead levels in various lipstick brands, as tested by the FDA, here.

The Associated Industries of Vermont and Personal Care Products Council lobbied hard to raise the proposed limit to 10 ppm, and Senate lawmakers ultimately decided to strike the provision altogether.

Instead, the bill directs the Vermont Department of Health to study Washington’s experience implementing a 1 ppm standard for lead, and to report back to lawmakers next session with a proposed limit for Vermont.

Sen. Ginny Lyons, a Democrat from Williston who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, said she was “not thrilled with it,” but her committee had qualms about setting a standard in statute that was too high and might encourage other states to follow suit.

“This is a tough choice for us,” said Lyons. “But I think given where we are in the session and the amount of time that we have, I’d like to help us move forward.”

Lyons said her committee will be looking closely at a limit on lead in cosmetics next session.

The House voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the Senate’s proposed amendments.

The bill goes to Gov. Phil Scott's desk next. It’s not yet clear whether the governor will sign the bill, but the Agency of Natural Resources signaled strong support for the policy in testimony.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.


Corrected: May 10, 2024 at 12:57 PM EDT
A photo caption in this story has been updated to clarify Sen. Ginny Lyons’ stance on advancing the PFAS bill. Lyons had qualms about striking a ban on lead in cosmetics and menstrual products from the bill.
Abagael is Vermont Public's climate and environment reporter, focusing on the energy transition and how the climate crisis is impacting Vermonters — and Vermont’s landscape.

Abagael joined Vermont Public in 2020. Previously, she was the assistant editor at Vermont Sports and Vermont Ski + Ride magazines. She covered dairy and agriculture for The Addison Independent and got her start covering land use, water and the Los Angeles Aqueduct for The Sheet: News, Views & Culture of the Eastern Sierra in Mammoth Lakes, Ca.
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