The state is granting six-month extensions to some companies to give them more time to report whether toxic chemicals are in their products.
A Maine law directed all companies to report whether their products contain PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, starting Jan. 1. However, after several manufacturers asked the state this month to delay the requirement, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has granted some of them six-month extensions, Deputy Commissioner David Madore said.
Under LD 1503, which passed the Maine Legislature in 2021, a manufacturer of a product for sale in Maine that contains intentionally added PFAS is required to notify the state of why PFAS are in the product and the amount of the chemicals in it.
Companies have been aware of the requirements for 15 months and should have been preparing for testing, said Sarah Woodbury, the director of advocacy for Portland-based Defend Our Health.
“They should have been gathering this information since the law was passed,” said Woodbury, who helped draft the legislation. “Saying the department is not giving them enough time is a little disingenuous, considering many manufacturers testified against this bill.”
Long-term exposure to PFAS can increase the risk of kidney cancer, decrease infant and fetal growth, and decrease immunity, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. There is also evidence linking PFAS to breast cancer, testicular cancer and thyroid disease, among other illnesses.
Companies have been pushing for even more time to report what’s in their products.
Dozens of manufacturers recently asked the state to delay the requirement until 2024, a move that prompted strong opposition from farmers, environmental groups, tribes, wastewater treatment districts and others in a letter to the state with 53 signatures.
There is limited capacity to test for PFAS nationwide. For solid products, these tests can take up to three months, and the department is willing to accommodate manufacturers who require more time to complete the required testing of their products, Madore said.
Some companies have even been asking for 12 months or longer to delay reporting the information, he said.
“But the Department believes 180 days should be adequate for a manufacturer to identify each of their products and components that must be tested, find an available lab, secure financing for analytical costs, collect and submit samples, await results, and complete submission of all required information into the online datasystem,” he wrote in an email.
The law gives the department the flexibility to extend the deadline if it determines manufacturers need more time.
The state has already granted extensions to some companies and denied others on reasonable grounds, Madore said, but the department is not yet able to disclose how many companies have applied or who they are.
“The Department is not soliciting extension requests,” he said. It “is responding to inquiries and requests.”
If testing turnaround time is up to three months, “then six months should be plenty of time,” Woodbury said.
The department will hold a stakeholder meeting to review the requirements of the law on Thursday.
A list of extensions granted to companies is scheduled to be made public by the end of the week, Madore said.
Mehr Sher is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for this reporting is provided by the Unity Foundation and donations by BDN readers.