firefighter foam

SPRINGFIELD – A measure introduced by State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) that would begin phasing out toxic PFAS chemicals used in firefighting foam passed the Illinois Senate on Friday.

“Evidence shows that exposure to PFAS can have serious health consequences, including kidney issues and cancer,” Ellman said. “We need to step in now if we want to decrease the public’s exposure, especially firefighters.”

Per-and polyfluoradlkyl substances, frequently called PFAS, are a large group of toxic chemicals that have the ability to repel oil and water, reduce friction, and put out fires. For these reasons, they are especially prevalent in firefighting foam.

There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to negative health effects, like cancer, reproductive issues, and liver and kidney problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The measure would put Illinois on a path to phase out the production, distribution, sale and use of PFAS in Illinois to protect firefighters from potentially toxic exposure while keeping chemical waste out of landfills and waterways, helping to keep Illinois’ environment healthy. 

“The characteristics that allow PFAS to put out fires are also the main environmental problem,” Ellman said. “They break down slowly and are incredibly resilient, which makes them a long-lasting danger to our environment.”

There are more than 100 alternative foams that can be used as viable replacements, and Washington, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York have already banned the use of PFAS chemicals.

Senate Bill 561 passed the Illinois Senate with a vote of 58-0 and now heads to the Illinois House of Representatives for further consideration.