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Maryland lawmaker takes steps to ban PFAS pesticides from sale in the state

FILE - Dust flies as a farmer plows over a failed cotton field, Oct. 4, 2022, in Halfway, Texas. Drought and extreme heat have severely damaged much of the cotton harvest in the U.S., which produces roughly 35% of the world's crop. The impacts of climate change hit communities across the country, yet voters in rural areas are the least likely to feel Washington is in their corner on the issue. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Eric Gay
FILE - Dust flies as a farmer plows over a failed cotton field, Oct. 4, 2022, in Halfway, Texas.

Maryland could soon take further steps to keep PFAS, commonly known as “forever chemicals”, out of the state with a new law that would prohibit the sale of pesticides that use the materials.

Del. Shelia Ruth (D-Baltimore) introduced a bill that would start the ban at the end of 2025.

PFAS chemicals have been proven to lead to illnesses like thyroid disease, liver damage and cancer and often contaminate water.

“A former federal regulator said if the intent was to spread PFAS contamination across the globe, there would be few more effective methods than lacing pesticides,” Ruth said during a Health and Government Operations Committee hearing on Wednesday. “We're spraying pesticides containing PFAS on the food we eat and that we feed our children.”

There are about 15,000 different types of PFAS compounds. Maryland has already banned their use in firefighting foams and product packaging.

PFAS chemicals are used to enhance the stability of pesticides so they will last longer. PFAS can also leech into pesticides from some containers.

The Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2022 that pesticides with PFAS can lead to contamination and prohibited the use of some.

“In December 2022, the agency issued a notice announcing the removal of 12 chemicals identified as PFAS from the current list of inert ingredients approved for use in nonfood pesticide products to better protect human health and the environment. These chemicals are no longer used in any registered pesticide product,” the EPA website on PFAS and pesticides.

Opponents of the bill fear that banning PFAS in pesticides could lead to a reduction in their effectiveness.

“We only use pesticides that are registered and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and depend on these materials to help control mosquitoes, ticks, bed bugs, termites and etc. to protect the health and safety of our customers through using an integrated pest management approach,” said Charlie Barton, an entomologist with the Maryland State Pest Control Association. “Without these materials in our toolbox, it can become impossible to control pests.”

The House of Delegates will need to pass the bill before March 18, Crossover Day, for it to have a chance of becoming law. Crossover Day requires that at least one house of the General Assembly pass a bill by that date for it to become law.

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
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