Americans are facing higher prices on nearly everything they use from food to common household products. Instead of looking for solutions, Democrats are about to make things worse by banning a class of chemicals used in manufacturing that make products better and cheaper. In other words, pay attention, consumers. You’re about to get less bang for your already-beleaguered buck.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as man-made or, as the activists like to call them, “forever chemicals,” are the latest addition to the long list of environmental boogeymen blamed for everything from causing cancer to infertility, thyroid problems, and a host of other health issues. In a hunt for a quick fix, Democrat legislators are moving toward a complete PFAS ban, which would outlaw a diverse group of more than 4,000 chemicals, regardless of their individual risks, benefits, and availability of reliable substitutes.
The PFAS Action Act was introduced in April 2021 and passed by the House in July. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), a sponsor of the bill, called PFAS “an urgent public health and environmental threat.” Yet, it is alarmism — not evidence — that drives the Democrats’ PFAS legislation. The assumption behind their approach is that PFAS chemicals all carry equal risks. They do not. PFAS chemicals have a wide array of uses, and, depending on the environment, break down differently.
As for PFAS being a health threat, studies don’t support that claim. In December 2021, the Australian National University published a groundbreaking study on PFAS. One of the key findings was that exposure to PFAS in impacted communities almost entirely comes from water and firefighting foam. That’s a problem because those who drink contaminated water or eat locally grown food that is contaminated are at the highest risk of PFAS-associated health problems. Yet the problem isn’t the existence or use of the chemical. It’s irresponsible and illegal production processes. Ensuring that these chemicals are properly used should drive regulation.
While the Australian study found PFAS exposure (PFOA and PFOS) increased higher cholesterol, other risks have not been confirmed. Even so, new research published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research states that there is often insufficient data supporting PFAS exposure with any specific disease.
PFAS can be found in household items and other common consumer products — like cell phones, medical equipment, and food packaging. These chemicals are also found in hospital settings. Surgical gowns, antimicrobial curtains, and floor coverings all contain PFAS to help protect doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel from infections during surgeries. Water, acid, and oil resistance are some of the main features making PFAS hard to substitute.
Instead of enacting bans, a smarter way to approach PFAS would be to assess these chemicals individually so that those chemicals that pose a significant risk to our health and wellbeing can be regulated appropriately.
The overreaching government hand is not needed to reduce the use of PFAS — that’s already happening. Thanks to industry self-regulation, the use of PFAS has decreased. And according to a 2018 Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, “industrial releases have been declining since companies began phasing out the production and use of several perfluoroalkyls in the early 2000s.” Also, despite alarmism, the report has found no causal relationship between perfluoroalkyls and pregnancy-induced hypertension, decreased antibody response to vaccines, or other reported ties.
It is important to take claims on the connection between PFAS and health effects with a pinch of salt. Over 200 laboratory animal studies found the link between exposure to PFAS and adverse health effects, which seems convincing at first glance. However, the significance of those conclusions for policymaking is overstated. A review of the lab studies found they used much higher PFAS exposure levels than those observed in the general population. In other words, these studies do not replicate how humans come in contact with these chemicals.
American consumers will have to foot the bill for the Democrats’ PFAS alarmism. With inflation spiking, one would expect regulators to be guided by evidence. The risks associated with consumer items that contain PFAS are non-existent, but the proposed ban comfortably ignores this. The increased cost of production — and the difficulty of finding substitutions for PFAS — will be passed on to consumers.
Another fact ignored by Democrats is that this ban will not cease the production or use of PFAS chemicals. It will simply shift it to countries such as China, where regulations are more relaxed. That means the PFAS Act will do nothing more than make Americans poorer and less safe.