As most states have now wrapped up their legislative sessions, we’ve found that states across the nation have adopted a range of innovative policies to combat toxic chemicals and incentivize the adoption of safer solutions. So far this year, 17 states have adopted at least 35 policies that help transform our economic system to better protect communities and create incentives for industry to develop safer chemicals and materials.
On February 3, 2023, a train carrying hazardous chemicals, including toxic vinyl chloride, derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Vinyl chloride is a deadly toxic chemical used to create polyvinyl chloride (PVC), one of the most widely produced plastics in the world used to make flooring, pipes, and packaging.
Safer States published 2023 Analysis of State Legislation Addressing Toxic Chemicals and Materials on February 6, 2023 which analyzed state-level policies driving toward safer chemicals and materials and healthier communities, finding that at least 30 states will consider policies in 2023. Safer States anticipates that at least 260 policies will be under consideration in 2023 with PFAS, plastics and cosmetics being the most relevant issues.
Just before the new year, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a bill restricting the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, in apparel. The bill will eliminate the use of PFAS in apparel by Dec. 31, 2023. Governor Hochul also signed a bill banning PFAS in carpets as part of a mandate requiring manufacturers to implement a carpet collection program.
The year 2022 was a pivotal year where numerous states took significant action to safeguard human and environmental health from toxic chemicals and pushed toward a system based on safer chemicals and materials. Given the urgency of the PFAS chemical crisis contaminating drinking water across the country, states drove an ambitious agenda, pushing for class-based restriction of toxic chemicals, transparency about what chemicals are in what products, holding polluters accountable, preventing false solutions, and investing in cleanup.
There is reason to hope that we can see beyond the political divisions that were evident on election day 2022 and work together to address common threats. One issue, in particular, has consistently drawn bipartisan attention from state legislators across the country — the need to address toxic PFAS chemicals that are contaminating communities and drinking water.
This week, REI members take to the streets of REI stores nationwide demanding that outdoor retailer REI set a clear timeline to eliminate toxic PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) as part of a year-long national campaign led by Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program, Safer States, and partners. Spanning 12 cities in 11 states, REI customers will deliver a petition with more than 130,000 signatures to REI’s flagship stores in their hometown of Seattle and in Manhattan demanding action on PFAS “forever chemicals.”
Most states have now finished their legislative sessions and, as Safer States’ analysis predicted earlier this year, there has been significant action on toxic chemicals in state policies across the country, especially ones focused on PFAS “forever chemicals”. So far this year, bipartisan majorities in 13 states have adopted at least 22 policies that will help transform our economic system to be one that better protects communities and creates incentives for industry to develop safer chemicals.
The world is waking up to the fact that our current Throw-Away Economy is not compatible with living on a finite planet. Rather than treating people and the planet as disposable, we need to move to a New Reuse Economy where consumer products are delivered in reusable packaging made from justly produced, sustainable and non-toxic materials.
Today Safer States launched a new resource to help candidates understand how they can be part of the solution by promoting policies that protect communities from toxic threats and create incentives for safer materials.