Newsom Signs Bill Essentially Banning Cancer-Linked Firefighting Foam

2 firefighters with a hose in the middle of a fire

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB-1044 into law Tuesday, banning the manufacture, use and sale of firefighting foam containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in most applications beginning on January 1, 2022.

The bill establishes exemptions from the ban, including limited-term waivers.

PFAS have been known to be possibly carcinogenic since at least 1983, when a study linked the PFAS perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to testicular tumors in rats. A press release from California State Senator Ben Allen said that PFAS have been linked to delayed puberty, infertility, liver and kidney damage, immune system toxicity and cancer.

“Our firefighters put their lives on the line to defend our communities and we know that with climate change, they will face even greater risks as wildfires worsen. We cannot stand by and allow them to face increased exposure to toxic chemicals that can be easily and affordably replaced,” Allen said. “We must act quickly to protect firefighters from this unnecessary hazard. And as our communities brace themselves for ongoing fire risk, we must shield them from even further damage from drinking water contamination.”

The bill requires that people who use firefighting foam containing intentionally added PFAS report using the chemical and if it is released into the environment to the State Fire Marshal. The bill mandates that the State Fire Marshal shall impose a fee on those applying for waivers or submitting a use/spill report.

The bill requires manufacturers to provide a specified notice to firefighting foam sellers in California and to recall firefighting foam products containing PFAS. The bill makes violating these provisions punishable by a specified civil penalty.

The bill prohibits people from discharging or using firefighting foam containing PFAS for training purposes, providing that a violation of this is punishable by a specified civil penalty.

The bill also requires that anyone who sells firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) to give purchasers a written notice at time of sale that the PPE contains intentionally added PFAS if it does. The bill provides that violations of these requirements is punishable by a specified civil penalty.

The bill had passed the assembly floor on August 26 with 72 votes for and 0 votes against. The bill then passed the senate floor with 39 votes for and 0 votes against before it made its way to Newsom.

Similar bans are currently being considered by legislatures in Vermont, North Carolina, Iowa, Illinois and Connecticut.


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