Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation Aimed at Curbing Pollution and Reducing Harmful Emissions
CHICAGO, IL (STL.News) Governor JB Pritzker signed HB 4818, an amendment to the Environmental Protection Act prohibiting the disposal by incineration of any perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). PFAS are a group of approximately 5,000 human-made chemicals that are manufactured for their oil and water-resistant properties. Since the 1940’s, PFAS have been used in a wide range of consumer products, industrial processes, and in AFFF. This has resulted in PFAS being released into the air, water, and soil.
While research on the effects of PFAS exposure to human health is ongoing, current scientific studies have identified possible adverse health effects including low infant birth weights, harmful effects on the immune system, cancer, thyroid hormone disruption, liver and kidney toxicity, decreased immune function, developmental disorders, and reproductive harm.
“The health and safety of Illinoisans have always been my top priorities,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “My administration is committed to listening to the latest scientific research and acting accordingly. We know that PFAS are harmful not just to the human body, but also to our environment. By signing this amendment, we ensure that these ‘forever chemicals’ don’t break down and pollute the air we breathe or the water we drink. Our Illinois is cleaner, safer, and more sustainable because of bills like this—and I am proud to sign it into law.”
PFAS are made up of chains of carbon and fluorine linked together. The carbon-fluorine bond is one of the shortest and strongest bonds in nature and does not easily break down under natural conditions. For this reason, PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals.”
AFFF that contain PFAS are typically used in firefighting and considered the most effective way to extinguish oil and gas fires. However, safe disposal methods for PFAS-containing firefighting foam remain a challenge. While incineration has shown some promise in breaking down these “forever” chemicals and minimizing the likelihood that they enter the environment, incineration may cause the substances to break down into other dangerous compounds and release additional greenhouse gases.
This legislation affords exemptions for incineration by a thermal oxidizer when operated as a pollution control device or a resource recovery device at a facility using PFAS, as well as some exemptions for medical waste incinerators and landfills. The United States Environmental Protection Agency continues its research into disposal methods of PFAS.
“This is yet another step in Illinois’ efforts to address PFAS and further protect our residents,” said John J. Kim, Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. “This new law maintains the broad prohibition on incineration of PFAS in Illinois while enabling facilities to continue to operate the necessary pollution control and resource recovery devices which reduce overall emissions.”
“The science is clear: incinerating PFAS poses an undeniable public health hazard. By ending that practice, we are preventing cancer-causing chemicals from reaching Illinois families,” said Majority Conference Chair LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis). “This kind of proactive lawmaking is vital to maintaining public safety. I thank Governor Pritzker for taking such an important step.”
“PFAS can harm people and the environment,” said State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea). “This initiative stems from concerns that our neighbors have surrounding the waste incinerator in Sauget, which puts residents at risk of exposure to these harmful substances. We worked on this measure for over a year and I’m proud that we are able to prioritize Metro East residents.”
“I am excited to witness the passing and the signing of HB 4818 into law,” said Nicole Saulsberry, State Government Representative, Sierra Club IL. “This law is historic in that it makes Illinois the first and only state in the country to have a statewide ban on the PFAS incineration. The Sierra Club is proud to have joined forces with the United Congregations of the Metro East in ensuring a healthier and cleaner future for all Illinois residents.”
“Banning the incineration of 180 of some of the most concentrated and harmful PFAS in our state is a good first step,” said Donna Brooks, President, United Congregations of Metro-East. “The fact that this bill was passed unanimously is a model for other states and federal legislators to address in a bipartisan fashion this incredibly toxic substance. We remain committed to working toward the next step of banning the incineration of all 5000+ varieties of PFAS.”