Maryland General Assembly Passes Bill to Study PFAS Testing in Pesticides

(Annapolis, MD)
– Today, April 10, 2023, Maryland took an important step towards reducing exposure to the harmful chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS found in contaminated pesticides. The Maryland General Assembly passed the Pesticides – PFAS Testing – Study bill (SB 158/HB 319), which requires the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), in consultation with the Departments of Environment, and Health, and with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to clarify several questions regarding how to best test for PFAS in pesticides.

This study group is in preparation for a 2024 bill that would restrict the use of PFAS-containing pesticides in Maryland. The current legislation, sponsored by Sen. Shelly Hettleman and Del. Dana Stein, will help advance the protection of public health from another pervasive source of PFAS in the emerging “forever chemicals” crisis in our state and the nation.

“Millions of pounds of pesticides are applied annually in Maryland communities and farms, and we need to ensure they do not contain the forever chemicals, PFAS,” said Del. Stein. “It’s no wonder our region has found alarming levels of PFAS in Bay waters, tributaries, drinking water, and fish – one of the most significant sources may be pesticides.”

New research has documented astoundingly high levels of toxic PFAS in widely used pesticides contaminating our water, food, soil, and bodies. Research also found PFAS in common pesticides used on food crops – the crops grown in these fields tested at thousands of times EPA’s new lifetime drinking water limit of 4 parts per trillion.

“Ingesting PFAS from our food crops has horrifying implications – it may be our most direct cumulative exposure yet,” said Sen. Hettleman. “Our children deserve to be kept safe from such preventable danger. This bill sets Maryland up to be a national model to stop the spread of PFAS through pesticides.”

Even low exposure to PFAS is linked to a multitude of long-term, serious health impacts, including kidney, testicular, prostate, and breast cancer, birth defects and developmental damage in infants, childhood obesity, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and impaired immune function. PFAS levels also affect the severity of COVID-19 infection and have been correlated with vaccine failure.

“As we approach mosquito season, a further concern is the use of mosquito control products that have been tested and found to contain PFAS,” said Bonnie Raindrop, coordinator of the Smart on Pesticides Coalition, which supported the bill. “These products may be used weekly in Maryland’s mosquito control program in 2,100 communities or by private contractors.”

The amended bill states that the six-month study will include:

  • An analysis of the health and environmental impacts of PFAS in pesticides in the State;
  • The identification of testing methods capable of testing for PFAS in pesticides;
  • An examination of characteristics that distinguish testing methods for PFAS that are validated for drinking water from testing methods that are validated for pesticides;
  • A status update on federal efforts to certify a method for testing for PFAS in pesticides; and
  • A status update on state and federal efforts to regulate or ban the use of pesticides containing PFAS.

MDA must report its findings and recommendations from the study to the governor on or before Nov. 1, 2023.

For more information about the legislation, contact the Smart on Pesticides Coalition.

The Smart on Pesticides Maryland coalition, spearheaded by the Maryland Pesticide Education Network, works to protect Marylanders and the natural systems we depend upon from the toxic impacts of pesticides. The coalition includes 112 organizations, and institutions representing communities, businesses, health care providers, farmers, environmentalists, waterkeepers, interfaith congregants as
well as environmental justice, public health, and wildlife advocates.