HONOLULU (KHON2) — State lawmakers are considering a ban on intentionally added polyfluoroalkyl or “forever chemicals,” that make up an array of items from certain cosmetics to water-resistant clothing, food packaging and more.

Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are called ‘forever chemicals’ because they take so long to break down.

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For decades, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances were used to make non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, waterproof and long-lasting cosmetics, firefighting foams, and grease-resistant paper products.

Now, they’re being detected in our water wells across the state.

“PFAS are extremely toxic chemicals that do not break down and so once they’re in our environment, they can be there for centuries,” explained Wayne Tanaka, director of the Sierra Club Hawaii.

Several countries and states have already started banning products that intentionally add PFAS.

Diana Felton, Hawaii state toxicologist, told lawmakers at a hearing regarding SB504 last week said such products can be washed off the skin and straight into the water supply.

It’s my understanding the Food and Drug Administration has not done a thorough evaluation of how much contribution to a person’s exposure of PFAS is coming from the personal care products. So, PFAS are all around us and in the environment so we’re getting them from different places depending on the food you eat, water you drink, and products you use, they’re coming at us from all these places and what contribution are coming from personal and skin care products is very much under investigation.”

Diana Felton, Hawaii state toxicologist

However, according to Tina Yamaki of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, the FDA has deemed such items safe, and despite the need for more research, many people would be hit economically by a ban.

“It’s tens of thousands of products that are in stores that we use every day, and we need to understand that it’s not firefighting foam that we’re putting into food products and packaging or makeup, there’s a different process going into those products,” Yamaki explained.

She said PFAS are found in products like eye shadows, foundation, dental floss, liquid lipsticks, shaving creams, toothpaste, hair care products, perfumes, cleaners, anti-wrinkle cream, shower gels, and much more. However, not every company or manufacturer uses PFAS in their products.

“The products that are on the market now including the packaging, makeup and personal care products, the FDA has approved of all of these things,” Yamaki continued. “They never came back and said these things are terrible for us and there’s a nationwide recall on it or a ban on it so it is still legal and deemed safe by the FDA.”

Meanwhile, environmentalists are calling for the military to ban PFAS in their firefighting foam to prevent further soil and groundwater contamination like the spill in late November near Red Hill.

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“Once they’re released in our islands, they’re going to stay there for centuries. You can’t incinerate these things,” said Tanaka. “It just puts them in the air. So we’re such a fragile and isolated place. We need to get this stuff off our islands.”