Bill would ensure mosquito control products are free of PFAS contamination in order to safeguard public health
Nationally renowned scientists, environmental advocates, and public health experts provided testimony to the Maryland House of Delegates Health and Government Operations committee today in favor of a bill to eliminate PFAS contamination in mosquito control products in Maryland. PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a dangerous class of chemicals linked to cancer and other long-term health impacts.
The bill, Pesticides — Mosquito Control Products and PFAS Chemicals (HB 570), which is sponsored by Del. Dana Stein (D-11), would require EPA-approved lab testing of these products for PFAS contamination by distributors and manufacturers when submitted for annual registration for sales and use in Maryland. More than 2,100 communities in 16 Maryland counties participate in Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA)’s Mosquito Control Program and are sprayed — sometimes weekly —throughout the summer and early fall. Residents also commonly contract these services from private vendors.
“This bill will help protect the health of thousands of Maryland residents, our Bay, and environment amidst an emerging PFAS crisis,” said Del. Stein. “Mosquitoes need to be managed, but communities and residents opting into the state’s mosquito control program or contracting with private companies need to be assured the products used are PFAS-free. No matter how you feel about mosquito control spraying, we can’t inadvertently expose people to a highly toxic substance. We need to act swiftly to ensure that people, their homes, schools, and workplaces, and all life in our waterways are protected from being unknowingly contaminated with PFAS-containing pesticides.”
PFAS contamination in mosquito control products emerged as a public health issue when a product similar to one used in Maryland was tested in Massachusetts and found to have high levels of PFAS, prompting Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Maryland Pesticide Education Network to test Permanone 30-30, a product widely used in Maryland’s mosquito control program. An EPA-approved lab found PFAS at dangerously toxic levels in the Permanone sample. (A subsequent test by a different lab on other samples provided by Bayer and Maryland Department of Agriculture were found to be PFAS-free, but it is unclear why the two EPA-approved labs found different results. While the second test checked for 28 PFAS, there are over 12,000 PFAS chemicals.)
Maverick Perimeter, which MDA lists on their website as a usable product for Maryland’s mosquito control program, was found by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to be contaminated with PFAS, also at dangerously toxic levels.
“These forever chemicals don’t go away and don’t break down when present in the environment,” said Michael J. Ichniowski, M.D., Chair of the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Environmental Health and Climate Change Committee. “Children should be protected from the harmful effects of these chemicals by reducing unnecessary exposures to them. The Environmental Protection Agency has yet to take action to assure that mosquito sprays to be used this summer are free of PFAS contamination. In the absence of such action by EPA, Maryland will need to confirm that these products are PFAS-free to protect its citizens, including children, from PFAS-related health risks.”
At the federal level, action to protect public health at the EPA has been captured by the chemical industry under both Democratic and Republican administrations. As a result, the EPA has let more than 12,000 PFAS on the market with little oversight, despite a growing body of data going back decades on the hazards. Advocates feel state legislatures may again need to take the lead in environmental protection, as Maryland, California, New York, and Hawaii did on chlorpyrifos, prior to the EPA’s action on this pesticide.
Due to their molecular structure, PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment or in our bodies. PFAS are found in many elements of modern life, including stain-repellent fabrics and firefighter foam, but there is no known way to destroy or safely dispose of them. As a result, these toxic products have already made their way into our water systems, our food, and our bodies. Even at low levels of exposure, PFAS are linked to cancer and other long-term health impacts, as well as making vaccinations less effective and infections (including COVID-19) more severe.
“Manufacturers need to ensure their products used in our state are lab-tested and shown to be PFAS-free for the safety of the public, especially our children playing outdoors where these chemicals are sprayed,” said Ana Rule, Ph.D., a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. “Furthermore, there is no research on the effects of combining PFAS with mosquito control pesticides, which are already known to have adverse health impacts. During this time of increased concern for public health, we deserve to know about the safety, or toxicity, of what is being sprayed into the air and the environment of our communities.”
The second PFAS bill, the George “Walter” Taylor Act (SB 273/HB 275), introduced this session would expand the prohibition on the sale, distribution and manufacture of PFAS to cover firefighting foam, carpet and food packaging where it has been used deliberately beginning next year.