As your constituent and someone committed to the health of Pennsylvania, I urge you to draft a bill that would establish a statewide Take Back program for Class B aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF).
AFFF contains PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) that never breakdown in the environment. In fact, they accumulate in living organisms and lead to negative health effects, such as cancer, developmental disruption, thyroid disease and reduced vaccine response. AFFF has been contaminating our environment and harming our communities since its development in the 1960s, and it is one of the primary contributors to the contamination of drinking water with PFAS. In addition, there is currently no safe way to dispose of and/or destroy PFAS-containing AFFF.
Other states throughout the country have already implemented programs to remove AFFF from fire departments to protect their communities. Pennsylvania needs to follow their lead and can take valuable lessons from their programs. For example, California's SB 1044 establishes industry accountability by requiring AFFF manufacturers to fund the removal and storage of PFAS-containing foam. Other states, such as Michigan and Colorado, have also implemented Take Back programs. However, several states' programs include the attempted destruction of AFFF through incineration or solidification. This is not a viable solution, as it leads to secondary pollution of the air, soil, and groundwater.
The Pennsylvania PFAS Action Team recommended in their 2019 Initial Report that a Take Back Program be established. Action by government officials is overdue. Like California and Colorado, Pennsylvania needs to implement a Take Back Program that stresses the importance of disposal regulation. AFFF must be carefully and responsibly removed from communities for interim storage until a safe disposal method is identified. A bill that delegates responsibility to appropriate agencies/departments, addresses the current challenges of disposal, and hold manufacturers financially accountable is vital in addressing the AFFF problem in Pennsylvania. This action will protect firefighters from exposure during their occupational duties, protect drinking water from PFAS contamination near fire sites, and limit the spread of PFAS throughout the environment.
I join many others in calling you to action and letting our voices lead policymaking. The health and safety of our firefighters, families, communities, and environment depend on you taking action against PFAS.