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A Year in Review: States Continue to Lead on Toxic Chemical Reform

 What a year! In 2021 states have once again stepped up and created incentives for safer chemistries, materials as well as protections from toxic chemicals. Using PFAS as a way to highlight the problem, states drove a big toxics agenda including pushing for a class-based restriction of toxic chemicals, transparency about what chemicals are in what products, and identification of safer materials and processes. In addition to 14 states adopting 32 policies, four states adopted nation-leading state policy actions that set restrictions on toxic PFAS chemicals and will have ripple effects across the country.

Vermont –  In May, Vermont adopted a nation-leading bill that restricts the sale of consumer products that contain PFAS. This comprehensive bill bans PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam, food packaging, ski wax, and carpets, rugs, and stain-resistant aftermarket treatments. While many of the provisions mirror PFAS legislation in other states, the provisions related to carpets, rugs, and ski wax are the first of their kind in the United States. Notably, the bill also bans ortho-phthalates in food packaging and creates a process of eventually banning bisphenols as well.

Maine– In July, Maine became the first state to ban PFAS in all products by the year 2030 starting with carpets, rugs and aftermarket treatments. In addition, manufacturers are now required to report all uses of PFAS in products sold in Maine. This will result in a valuable dataset that will prompt further actions across the country. Maine also adopted a flurry of other bills on PFAS that range from testing soil and groundwater to banning firefighting foams that contain PFAS.

California– In October, California became the first state in the nation to require truth in advertising for products labeled “recyclable” and bans PFAS and heavy metals in products labeled “recyclable.” These policies will ultimately lead to safer, non-toxic products. Additionally, California banned the entire class of PFAS chemicals from “juvenile” products, paper-based food packaging and required disclosure of PFAS in cookware.

Michigan – Most recently, Michigan became the first state to limit the state’s procurement of products containing PFAS chemicals. While other states have product-specific PFAS procurement restrictions, Michigan’s new policy goes further by looking across all purchases by the state. The policy also requires suppliers to disclose whether a product contains PFAS. This type of executive policy was key in the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network’s PFAS Policy Agenda.

In addition to these precedent-setting policy wins, many other states this year took action to address the PFAS crisis. California, Connecticut and Minnesota enacted bans on PFAS in food packaging; Connecticut, Illinois and Vermont enacted bans on PFAS in firefighting foam; Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and New Hampshire all set new restrictions on PFAS in water; and Maryland banned certain PFAS chemicals in cosmetics.

The State of Washington, which has authority under its Safer Products for Washington Act, is moving forward to restrict five classes of chemicals in eleven product categories. Similarly, California finalized regulations to address PFAS in carpets and rugs under its existing authority.

In a parallel move, Massachusetts enacted a policy restricting toxic flame retardants and New York has a bill on the Governor’s desk that would restrict flame retardants in furniture, mattresses, and for the first time in the nation, electronic displays.

Multiple states also stepped up to address existing contamination and created mechanisms to hold polluters accountable. For example, both Maine and New Hampshire enacted policies that extend the statute of limitations significantly on civil action related to damages caused by PFAS. Several states have also dedicated new resources and funding to the managing and testing of PFAS. It is critically important that we continue to address contamination in frontline communities while we also work upstream to stop the flow of these chemicals.

In 2022 we expect the momentum to continue and more states to create incentives for safer materials and chemicals and protect communities from toxic chemicals.

Look for an announcement early next year and be sure to check out our bill tracker to keep up to date on adopted and moving policy.

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