Legislation aimed at reducing the amount of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) entering Washington state waters passed the Senate today on a unanimous bipartisan vote.

Under Senate Bill 5369, the state would petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lower the level of PCBs in consumer products and require the state Department of Ecology to make rules prohibiting paints and inks containing PCBs in Washington.

“The health of the Spokane River and other state waterways is vital to our future, and this legislation is a simple upstream solution to stop dangerous chemicals from polluting our natural resources,” said Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane), the bill’s sponsor.

PCBs were commonly used in industrial and commercial products until their manufacture was mostly banned in the late 1970s due to their toxicity. Large amounts still remain in the environment from legacy waste and some are still being produced as a byproduct of a few manufacturing processes, especially for paints and inks.

Studies of the Spokane River show PCBs bio-accumulate in fish. For decades, health advisories have warned people to limit the number of fish they consume from the river.

“We’ve known for years these dangerous chemicals cause cancer and other negative health effects, and it’s inconceivable that we are still allowing PCBs to enter our water sources,” Billig said. “It’s past time we adopt new standards to ensure we are doing all we can to keep our community safe and healthy.”

A recent assessment by the Department of Ecology confirmed the presence of harmful PCBs in consumer products sold in Washington. The assessment also confirmed that safer alternatives are available. For example, the state Department of Transportation is already using a non-PCB yellow paint for roads.

Billig also sponsored SB 6086 in 2014 to make sure the state was purchasing products and packaging free of PCBs.

SB 5369 now moves to the House for consideration.