St. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Minnesota is about to ban the unnecessary use of “forever chemicals.” And lawmakers say they are naming the legislation after a woman who spent the last months of her life campaigning for the restrictions to be some of the toughest in the country.
Lawmakers, environmentalists and family members paid tribute Tuesday to Amara Strande. He died two days shy of his 21st birthday last month from a rare form of liver cancer. He grew up in a suburb of St. Paul where the groundwater is contaminated with PFAS and believes the chemicals are part of the cause of his cancer, which was diagnosed at age 15.
“Through her pain and exhaustion, Amara is willing to be a voice for those who are victims of the diseases linked to these endless chemicals,” said her father Michael Strande. “Amara is calling on Minnesota lawmakers to do what’s right in passing laws that not only protect our environment, and human life, but also force industries to find alternative ways to make their products. without these deadly chemicals.”
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are widespread throughout the world and do not degrade in the environment. They are linked to many health problems, including low birth weight and some cancers. The chemicals have been used since the 1940s in many consumer and industrial products, including nonstick pans, fast-food packaging, textiles and firefighting foam.
“I spent the last five years fighting cancer with every ounce of my being. And I will for the rest of my life,” said Amara Strande in an emotional news conference with lawmakers and her parents back when they announced the law in January. “Corporations need to stop making these toxins and be held accountable and pay for the damage they’ve done. Through no fault of my own, I was exposed to these toxic chemicals. And as result, I will die of this cancer.”
“Amara’s Law” will allow only limited exceptions to the ban, such as firefighting foam used in airports and oil refineries and protective clothing for firefighters. Companies must also disclose whether the products they sell in Minnesota contain the chemicals. The ban will go into effect in 2025 for a long list of products including carpets, cleaning products, cookware, cosmetics, dental floss, textiles and textile treatments, furniture, products for children, menstrual products and ski wax.
A House-Senate conference committee negotiating the details of a broad environmental and natural resources bill agreed Thursday on the PFAS language to be included. Supported by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and his administration’s ban. He is expected to sign it after the House and Senate complete the final package.
“This will be the strongest PFAS law in the country,” said Democratic Rep. Sydney Jordan, of Minneapolis, who went on to say: “Minnesota invented PFAS. By passing it, Minnesota will invent the solution.
Supporters say Minnesota has a special responsibility because the chemicals were invented by Maplewood-based 3M, which announced in December that it was exiting the production of PFAS and stopping their use in its products.
“We have a duty to take the lead in eliminating them from the environment, from our bodies, from our consumer products, from our water,” said Democratic Sen. Judy Seeberger, of Afton, is the lead Senate sponsor. He said the issue is personal because his well at home is contaminated with PFAS, forcing him to use a filtration system to get safe water.
Andrea Lovoll, legislative director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, says Minnesota’s legislation goes further than any other state and has the strictest list of what is considered non-essential use. For example, he said, California’s bans don’t cover cookware or require more comprehensive disclosures. So far, he said, Maine has had the strongest restrictions. But Maine’s 2021 law mandates a phaseout by 2030 while Minnesota’s law is faster.
The US Environmental Protection Agency last year designated the chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. But the EPA stopped short of an outright ban, after warning that the compounds were more dangerous than previously thought and posed health risks even at much lower levels.
Photo: A water researcher tests a water sample for PFAS, Tuesday, February 14, 2023, at the US Environmental Protection Agency Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response in Cincinnati.
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