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Indiana manufacturers want to continue using toxic PFAS, aim to pass legislation

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Business, Environment, Health
Greg Ellis with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce speaking at the Chamber's legislative preview event in November. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

State legislators passed two laws aimed at protecting firefighters from toxic PFAS this year. One requires fire stations to buy PFAS-free gear and another sets up a pilot program to test firefighters’ blood for the chemicals. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure those laws don’t prevent Indiana manufacturers from using PFAS.

Among other things, exposure to the chemicals has been linked to kidney cancer, problems with the immune system, and developmental issues in children. PFAS keep firefighting gear dry and could be one reason why firefighters have disproportionately high rates of cancer.

Greg Ellis is vice president of energy and environmental policy at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He said several Indiana companies use PFAS that doesn’t dissolve in water to make things like medical devices, packaging and metals — and that they should be allowed to continue to use them.

“We just want to clarify that definition so that we use those products and manage them properly,” Ellis said.

Ellis said non-water soluble PFAS are safe. But Marta Venier said there’s no evidence to suggest that’s true. She’s an assistant professor of environmental chemistry at Indiana University who studies PFAS.

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Venier said we know less about PFAS that don’t dissolve in water than water soluble chemicals like PFOA, but we know enough. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration is phasing out a non-water soluble PFAS chemicalf found in food packaging because of the health risks.

“So the reality is there’s no good PFAS out there,” she said.

Venier said the goal should be to remove PFAS in all products — whether the chemicals dissolve in water or not.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.