AUGUSTA — State regulators have introduced a compromise plan to regulate the sale of products containing forever chemicals.

The proposal by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection would exempt some federally regulated industries such as the automotive, aeronautical and defense sectors from an impending 2030 ban on the sale of products that contain forever chemicals, even if a safer chemical alternative is available.

The proposed amendment to the state’s existing forever chemicals law would exempt some of Maine’s major manufacturers, including Bath Iron Works, C&L Aviation of Bangor and Idexx of Westbrook, some of which have threatened to move work out of state or even leave if the 2022 law wasn’t changed.

“We support surgical changes that eliminate the human health risk but accommodate businesses using these chemicals safely,” said Patrick Woodcock, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “Current Maine law treats all business use of forever chemicals the same, regardless of the health risk.”

In addition to these federally regulated industries, the compromise also would exempt most heating and refrigeration equipment, including the heat pumps that Maine is now relying on to reduce fossil fuel use and carbon emissions. But environmentalists say refrigerants are major sources of PFAS pollution.

The compromise also would exempt semiconductors and all equipment used to make semiconductors.


Some environmentalists don’t like such broad exemptions, noting the current state law already exempts manufacturers that must use forever chemicals to comply with federal standards. There is no need to broaden that exemption to include almost all precision manufacturers, they argue.

“I don’t think that industry and public health advocates are ever going to agree on everything, but this proposal would significantly weaken Maine’s existing law,” said Sarah Woodbury, the vice president of policy for Defend Our Health, a Portland nonprofit that lobbies against forever chemical use.

Still, there is plenty in DEP’s proposed compromise for environmentalists to cheer.

The compromise would impose a 2025 ban on the sale of consumer products that states like California, Colorado and Minnesota, and the European Union, have banned, including cleaning supplies, cookware, cosmetics, dental floss, children’s products, menstrual products, ski wax and upholstered furniture.

Regulators intend to target products that present the highest exposure risk to humans, Woodbury said. But the law should require companies to use non-PFAS alternatives to make their products whenever it is possible, she said. Even precision parts eventually wind up in a landfill, where their PFAS can escape.

The new proposal to amend Maine’s PFAS ban was first discussed publicly on Wednesday at a Maine Chamber of Commerce forum on Maine’s forever chemicals regulations and will be debated at a work session of the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee at 1 p.m. Thursday.


“We’re getting close,” said Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, the environment committee co-chair. “There are some places where the business and the environmental community have not quite found alignment. It’s time for the committee to hear that deliberation and start to make some decisions.”

Perfluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are called forever chemicals because they can linger in the environment for decades. Even trace amounts have been linked to compromised immune systems, low birth weights, and several types of cancer.


Maine is on the front lines of PFAS legislation. Last year, after a string of farms connected to the state’s decades-old sludge spreading program shut down because of PFAS contamination, Maine became the first state to ban sludge recycling and PFAS in nonessential products.

Under Maine law, forever chemicals must be stripped from all products sold here after 2030 unless the use is deemed unavoidable. The law also required all manufacturers of products that contain PFAS to notify the state in 2023, but lawmakers relented and extended the notification deadline until 2025.

The Tex Tech Industries mill in North Monmouth in June 2023. Residential water wells near the mill have shown high levels of PFAS, officials say. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal, file

Since then, Maine’s business community has tried to highlight the impact that a PFAS notification and ban would have on the state economy, as well as individual companies. Several manufacturers have threatened to leave Maine if the law remains unchanged.


National companies have conceded they use of dozens of different so-called forever chemicals in a thousand consumer products sold in Maine, from swimsuits to cameras to eyeshadow, according to Defend Our Health.

From shampoo to school supplies, dog treats to dish ware, the brand names that admit to using forever chemicals are ubiquitous: Mizuno swimsuits, Kinco gloves, Anna Sui cosmetics, Liquid Wrench, Olympus cameras, Duracell batteries, DuPont insulation, Veolia water filters.

Defend Our Health on Wednesday released a new list of products sold in Maine that contain PFAS, including Bic razors, Sterno canned heat, Barbour jackets, and Epic Designers work pants and vests.


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