Sweeping legislation in the Colorado Senate, SB 24-081, threatens to create major disruptions for families and businesses across the state.
As introduced, the legislation proposes to ban an entire class of chemistries, known as PFAS, that are integral to industries ranging from semiconductors to clean energy to healthcare to aerospace.
PFAS are a diverse universe of chemistries that are critical to many products Colorado families rely on every day. All PFAS are not the same. Individual chemistries have different physical, chemical, and toxicological properties, as well as differing uses. In fact, renewable energy, semiconductors, healthcare technology, pharmaceuticals, transportation, and air travel all rely on a particular category of fluorinated chemistries (fluoropolymers) that meet key internationally recognized safety criteria for identifying polymers of low concern.
PFAS chemistries also support many products that are essential for health, safety, or the functioning of society, and for many of which there may be no viable alternatives.
But don’t take our word for it.
- The Biden Administration’s Department of Defense has said that losing access to PFAS “would greatly impact national security”. According to DoD, “PFAS are critical to DoD mission success and readiness and to many national sectors of critical infrastructure, including information technology, critical manufacturing, health care, renewable energy, and transportation. DoD relies on an innovative, diverse U.S. industrial economy. Most. . . PFAS are critical to the national security of the United States.”
- The semiconductor industry, warning on restrictions to new PFAS chemistries in EPA’s PFAS New Chemicals Framework, has warned that onerous restrictions “would be catastrophic. . . . and would result in a complete shutdown of all U.S. domestic semiconductor manufacturing operations.”
- AdvaMed, a trade association representing advanced medical technology companies, speaking before Congress on one category of PFAS, has said, “It is hard to imagine the medical industry without the many important products that contain fluoropolymers. C-PAP machines, prosthetics, IV bags, surgical instruments, and many other medical technologies contain PFAS. These medical devices are critical to the treatment and health of Americans.”
In addition to creating severe disruption for Coloradoans, SB 24-081 also undercuts the compromises that were reached in 2022 PFAS legislation (HB 22-1345) and creates broad, sweeping bans before that law has even been implemented.
Colorado legislators should take note of the significant challenges other states and the European Union have experienced when trying to implement overly broad approaches to regulating PFAS chemistries.
In 2021, Maine passed a similar broad-brush ban on products using PFAS chemistries.
After hearing from thousands of constituents and stakeholders about the consequences of this law, eight pieces of legislation have been introduced to amend or reform it. To date, Maine DEP has issued more than 2400 extensions to companies for reporting PFAS due complications with implementation. In fact, Maine DEP suspended its rulemaking, and changes to the statute are being contemplated in many corners of the state government.
The legislative sponsor has even said, “We don’t always get it right the first time, which is why we have amendments and legislative fix measures.”
In the EU, hundreds of industries submitted thousands of comments on the widespread consequences of the proposed PFAS ban and the lack of suitable alternatives. As a result, EU authorities have had to delay consideration of the proposal give the complexity of the issue, the number of industries and applications impacted, and the potential consequences for the EU’s long-term sustainability, public health, and economic growth goals as a result of the PFAS restriction proposal. SB 24-081 will bring exactly the same overreach and unintended consequences not just to the corridors of the capital, but to the homes, schools, doctors offices, and workplaces of every Coloradoan.
The reality is that the majority of attention on PFAS has focused on a handful of substances that are no longer produced by leading global manufacturers in the US, EU, Japan, or India. Over a decade ago, members of our industry entered into the EPA PFAS Stewardship program, committing to cease the manufacture and use of PFOA-related chemicals by 2015. They invested more than $700 million in research and development and also agreed that new PFAS chemistries would undergo enhanced regulatory review before being permitted on the market.
PFAS chemistries in commerce today have been reviewed by regulators before introduction, are subject to ongoing review, and are supported by a robust body of health and safety data. PFAS chemistries are being regulated at the state and federal levels.
Colorado lawmakers should work with industry stakeholders on practical, science-based legislation that recognizes the critical applications that rely on PFAS chemistries in order to avoid severe consequences to Coloradoans.