The properties of PFAS are not “misunderstood.” Rather, many are well-known as highly persistent in the environment, in our bodies, and in our drinking water and food supply, and the best studied are extremely toxic, linked to health problems ranging from cancers, hormone disruption and liver dysfunction to birth defects, infertility and immunosuppression. The more we learn about PFAS, the clearer it becomes how hazardous they are as a chemical family.

In a recent op-ed in this newspaper (“Commentary: Maine response to PFAS amounts to regulatory overreach,” April 1), Dale Craft, former Republican member of Maine’s House of Representatives, made several misleading or outright false statements about the Maine law passed in 2021 that seeks to restrict PFAS (“forever chemicals”) in products sold in Maine.

Craft suggests we should study each PFAS individually, rather than as a class. This is impossible in Maine or anywhere else, given that there are nowhere near enough resources to study the thousands of chemicals in the PFAS family.

Waiting for proof of harm caused by each chemical leads us to the same perilous place we are in now with widespread PFAS contamination, human body burdens, and sick people. Craft also ignores that Maine’s approach to regulating PFAS as a class is consistent with scientific recommendations and with recent laws prohibiting all PFAS in textiles in California, Colorado and Maryland. The European Union is now working on a process to eliminate all uses of PFAS in all products, unless specifically exempted.

Any argument that Maine’s law is “undermining critical industries and the daily lives of Americans” conveniently ignores that the Maine law provides exemptions from its 2030 prohibition deadline for a “currently unavoidable use” of PFAS. The Craft op-ed overstates the extent to which PFAS are unavoidable, as many jurisdictions are working on sweeping PFAS bans. What is harming the “daily lives of Americans” is not regulatory overreach, but rather our constant exposure to significant numbers and often high levels of hazardous chemicals in our products and our environment, damaging our health, well-being and livelihoods.

Maine’s law does not duplicate federal law. There is no comparable federal law eliminating PFAS in products, and thus states like Maine are leading the way in working to greatly reduce human exposure to these harmful chemicals.

Recently, the federal government has finally taken steps to start regulating PFAS, including establishing a requirement that PFAS manufacturers provide data on how much PFAS is produced or imported nationally, but this will only provide a very general indication of the economic sectors where PFAS are used. The Maine law applies to manufacturers selling products in Maine and will uncover detailed information on PFAS use in specific products. These two reporting requirements are complementary, allowing Maine’s policymakers to prioritize product categories for PFAS elimination before the 2030 deadline, and allowing consumers to make informed decisions about products they buy.

The American public has repeatedly paid the price of a misguided blind faith in industrial chemicals put to widespread use without adequate safety information, including lead in paint and gasoline, DDT and other harmful pesticides, asbestos and PFAS. Maine’s Legislature should be commended for showing leadership on safer chemicals regulation to protect public health. We will not “go back in time and lose innovative products that protect our health and quality of life” if we restrict PFAS use in products sold in Maine.

Rather, we will create a much healthier environment for all of us by requiring industry to inform us where and how they are using these toxic chemicals and incentivizing the use of alternatives that won’t harm us.

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