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John Oliver’s “One Size Fits All” Approach For PFAS Is Misguided

Washington, DC –  British showman and comedian John Oliver, known for his punchy and thorough rants on public policy, has set his sights on a new target: man made chemicals, known as PFAS. In his now viral rant, Oliver explains how PFAS chemicals are problematic for human health and wants all of these chemicals to be declared hazardous by law. This is, in fact, what Congress is attempting to do via the PFAS Action Act, which has passed the House and is waiting for a final vote in the Senate.

David Clement, North American Affairs Manager with the DC based Consumer Choice Center urged caution in regards to regulating these man made chemicals: ” While some bans or restrictions might very well be needed and justified, banning an entire category of evolving products won’t serve the consumer. A more appropriate response would be to evaluate these chemicals and substances based on the risk they present and how they are used, rather than lumping them all together and risk enacting bad policy that will have a myriad of consequences.”

“For example, these chemicals are commonly used to create a long list of medical devices and equipment and done so in a way that presents very little risk to human health. To declare all these chemical compounds hazardous, without evaluating the risk associated with each use, puts lifesaving medical technologies in jeopardy and patient safety at risk,” said Clement

“These chemicals are also used in the production process for smartphones, which 270 million Americans currently use. As cell phones and 5G technology continue to grow and require faster speeds at smaller sizes, these compounds are involved in everything from producing semiconductors to helping cool data centers for cloud computing. Forcibly removing these chemicals from the production process, even when they present very little risk to humans, will drastically disrupt supply chains and inflate costs that will hurt low-income people the hardest,” said Clement.

“Rather than a “one size fits all” approach to PFAS, regulators should keep in mind that risk is established by looking at the hazard a substance presents, and the exposure to that hazard. There is a significant difference between the dumping of these chemicals into water ways, which is atrocious and should never happen, and the necessary use of these chemicals in various production processes, which pose little to no risk to consumer health and safety. Failing to see the difference, and lumping all of these modern chemicals into one regulatory basket, will create a laundry list of negative externalities,” said Clement

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