Governor Dunleavy vetoed bill restricting ‘forever chemicals’

Firefighting foam commonly contains PFAS.

Governor Dunleavy vetoed a bill that would have minimized the use of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) ‘forever chemicals’ in firefighting foam and allowed new construction to use alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in Alaska. The bill had broad support from the legislature- every single senator voted yes, and 38 of the 40 house representatives approved the bill. 

PFAS chemicals stick around in the environment for a very long time, hence their nickname of ‘forever chemicals,’ and can be highly toxic when in the water supply. A recent study found high levels of PFAS contamination in both Anchorage and Fairbanks waterways. Research has associated PFAS chemicals with multiple types of cancer including kidney cancer, decreased immune response, decreased fertility, thyroid disease and more. 

Air conditioning and refrigeration use HFCs, and they are big greenhouse gas polluters. This bill would allow building codes to permit modern and better alternatives. 

My baby brother working as a wildland firefighter last summer in the lower 48. Dark jokes about inevitable cancer were commonplace.Photo by MJC | Used by permission

When vetoing, the governor expressed concern over whether there were viable alternatives to PFAS firefoam. There are. Eleven states, including Colorado and California which have big fire seasons, have already banned firefighting foams that include PFAS. Alaska would likely need to devote funds to distributing new foam to rural villages, but state officials have said that many of the PFAS-containing firefighting tools in rural villages already don’t work, so those foams already need to be replaced. Firefighters were in strong support of the bill. 

In order to protect our water, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and protect the health of our firefighters and communities, the legislature should override the governor’s veto. 


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staff | TPIN

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