Maine has taken the lead nationally, having committed more than $100 million to investigate soil, water and food contamination caused by “forever chemicals,” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and to provide emergency financial assistance and technical help to farmers negatively impacted by contamination.

Our state agencies have identified more than 50 PFAS-contaminated farms and at least 345 water sources that exceed Maine’s water safety standard of 20 parts per trillion for the sum of six kinds of PFAS. Maine has been cleaning up drinking water sources that exceed safety standards, carrying out research and testing, and establishing a blood testing program to monitor for health impacts.

But this is likely just a down payment on what is needed to address the negative impacts of PFAS on our state.

Recent scientific research has identified pesticides as a source of potential PFAS exposure, both from intentionally-added active and inert ingredients and from contamination, including from fluorinated containers. The state is taking the initiative to reduce and eliminate PFAS exposure from pesticides, starting with requiring notice to the public about which pesticides contain the chemicals. This policy protects public health and farmers’ livelihoods, and will prevent future contamination and exposure, and the hardship and financial costs associated with it.

Unfortunately, the Press Herald’s recent coverage of these efforts to immediately identify and, by 2030, phase out PFAS in pesticides baselessly painted a dire future for Maine’s food and agriculture system. There was little recognition of the harm already caused by these forever chemicals, which Maine’s new policies will prevent in the future.

Pesticides are applied to gardens, parks, school and community ball fields, hospitals, golf courses, roadways, power lines and many other locations. Additionally, pesticides containing PFAS may be sprayed several times in the growing season, over vast farm acreage, year after year. Maine’s policymakers are absolutely right to tackle PFAS contamination and exposure head-on, phasing out products with PFAS ingredients while retaining important exemptions where products are essential.


PFAS contribute to many health problems, including cancer, increased cholesterol, low birth weight and reduced efficacy of vaccinations.

The Press Herald’s reporting created the incorrect impression that the biggest concern organic farmers have with PFAS is the availability of pesticides after the 2030 PFAS phase-out. Had representatives of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association been interviewed, we would have explained that the first line of defense for any organic farmer is healthy soil, which grows resilient plants and animals and nourishes healthy people. A limited number of minimum-risk pesticides are approved for organic management, and organic farmers use them only as a last resort.

Given the widespread harm that PFAS have caused to Maine people, especially farmers whose land and wells are poisoned by contaminated sewage sludge, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control can and should act aggressively to phase out PFAS pesticides and promote safer alternatives for farmers, gardeners and landscapers. Maine’s organic farmers support these actions.

Maine is one of the few states in the nation that is moving aggressively to identify and eliminate forever chemicals from our environment, and paying a lot of money to protect adversely impacted residents and landowners as well as future generations. We mustn’t give the pesticides industry a free pass to poison our water, land and bodies.

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association endorses the PFAS pesticides laws and recognizes that the policies will support a food system that is healthy and fair for all Mainers, helping farmers thrive, making more local, organic food available and building sustainable communities.

We have been leaders in developing PFAS solutions including a joint effort with Maine Farmland Trust and Erin French of The Lost Kitchen, raising $1.3 million for emergency relief for farmers harmed by PFAS contamination, which is available to all Maine farmers impacted by PFAS.

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