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New bill would expand PFAS ban for tampons, other consumer items

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Eric Galatas

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(Colorado News Connection) Colorado lawmakers want to beef up legislation that bans PFAS, so-called forever chemicals, by 2028.

Yahn Olson is an associate attorney with Environmental Litigation Group, which is taking companies that produce PFAS to court on behalf of firefighters in Colorado and other states exposed at military bases.

He said PFAS are a major threat to public health, especially when they are allowed to leach into sources of drinking water.

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"But when it leaches into groundwater and comes up through wells, it's very hard to filter out," said Olson. "And it can cause a litany of diseases, it's heavily linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, a number of thyroid diseases."

Senate Bill 24-081 builds on legislation passed in 2022 banning class B firefighting foam, also known as AFFF, routinely used at both civilian and military airfields.

The new law would close a loophole that allows refineries and chemical plants to use the foam, and adds a host of other products to the ban including tampons, dental floss and cooking ware.

According to Environmental Protection Agency data, PFAS may be found at 21,000 sites across Colorado - and 85 percent of those sites are related to oil and gas production.

Olson said the EPA has recommended setting strict limits for PFAS, but so far has not adopted new formal regulations.

"For a while it was 76 parts per trillion, and they dropped that to 4 parts per trillion," said Olson. "Which is essentially the EPA telling you that any exposure is too much exposure."

Olson's group is calling for current and former military personnel who may have been exposed to the toxic chemicals to join a lawsuit seeking compensation for medical and other costs.

Producers of PFAS, including 3M and Dupont, have argued that they shouldn't be held liable for how their products are used once they leave their facilities. But Olson said he disagrees.

"You can't blame the firefighters and the users of AFFF foam when you didn't really tell them the dangers," said Olson. "They may not have been disposing of it, but they didn't tell anybody how to dispose of it."