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2022 Analysis of State Legislation on PFAS and other Toxic Chemicals

Safer States analyzed state-level policies on toxic chemical regulation, finding that at least 32 states will consider policies in 2022. Safer States anticipates that at least 210 policies will be under consideration in 2022 and efforts to combat toxic PFAS chemicals will continue to be the most prevalent issue.

States considering toxics legislation include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Similar to 2021, PFAS chemicals will continue to be a major focus of proposed policies. PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) are a class of more than 9000 chemicals used in everything from cookware, food packaging, and carpets to apparel and firefighting foams. PFAS are also widely used in industrial and manufacturing processes and then discharged into waterways.

A growing body of scientific research has found links between exposures to PFAS and a wide range of health problems including a weaker immune system, cancer, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. Scientists are most concerned about contaminated drinking water and food as well as exposure from consumer products.

PFAS is one of thousands of toxic chemicals that are affecting communities and our health. Some states are moving to ensure that additional harmful compounds including bisphenols, phthalates, and toxic flame retardants are eliminated from products. These chemicals are linked to cancer, reproductive harm, developmental harm, learning disabilities, obesity, weaker immune systems, reduced fertility among other health effects.

Below is an overview of policies that have been introduced, or are anticipated to be introduced, in legislatures across the country to address the serious threat of toxic PFAS and other toxic chemicals. Some of the proposed policies listed below are part of a single bill. 

Restricting PFAS in products

  • At least 10 states will consider regulating PFAS on a broad scale such as restricting all unnecessary uses of PFAS, banning PFAS from multiple product categories, and/or requiring disclosure of PFAS in all products: CO, MA, MD, MI, MN, NC, NH, NY, RI, VT.

  • At least 11 states will consider policies to eliminate PFAS chemicals from food contact materials including packaging and/or cookware including CO, HI, IA, MA, MD, MI, MN, NY, PA, RI, WI (several states are aiming to eliminate additional chemicals of concern.) PFAS are used in nonstick coatings on food packaging materials like microwave popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers. The chemicals don’t always stay in the food packaging, but instead can move into the food where we may be exposed when we eat. Studies also show that when PFAS-coated food packaging is composted or landfilled, the chemicals can migrate into the environment.

  • At least 11 states will consider policies to eliminate PFAS from firefighting foam, including bans, restrictions, and take-back programs: AK, HI, IA, IL, MA, MD, MI, MN, NC, RI, WI. Firefighting foam is a major source of PFAS drinking water contamination. In the last four years, multiple states have passed bans on PFAS in firefighting foams while both the military and the FAA have been directed by Congress to stop using PFAS-based firefighting foams.

  • At least 7 states will consider policies to eliminate PFAS from textiles (or require disclosure) for product categories including carpets, rugs, upholstery, aftermarket textile treatments, juvenile products, outdoor gear and apparel: CA, CO, MA, MD, MN, NY, RI. Both California and Washington state have identified these products as significant sources of human and ecological exposures to PFAS and are working on identifying safer alternatives through regulatory processes. Other states are now attempting to address these same issues through legislation like  Vermont and Maine did for carpets, rugs and aftermarket treatments in 2021.

  • At least 5 states will consider policies to restrict PFAS in cosmetics and personal care products: CA, CO, MA, MN, RI.  See below for more information on policies targeting cosmetics.

  • Several states will also be considering restrictions for PFAS in other products such as fracking fluid (CO, MA), artificial turf (VT), ski wax (CO, MN), pesticides (MA, MD) and all forms of packaging material (NY).

  • At least 3 states will be considering policies that disallow PFAS and other toxic chemicals such as heavy metals from being present in products labeled as or claiming to be recyclable: HI, MD, NJ. These states are looking to follow California’s lead which is expected to send industry clear signals about chemistries and materials that are allowed in recycling systems.

PFAS Management and Accountability

  • At least 5 states will consider policies for medical monitoring, liability and/or extending the statute of limitations for PFAS lawsuits: IN, MD, MI, NH, VT. Millions of Americans are dealing with PFAS contaminated drinking and states are spending millions of dollars to clean up pollution. Responding to this situation, states are taking action to hold polluters accountable. Indiana, for example, has proposed offering veterans to have their blood tested for PFAS; Michigan is working to extend the statute of limitations so farmers and others who have had their land polluted by PFAS are able to seek legal remedy even though the contamination took place years earlier.

  • At least 5 states will consider restricting PFAS disposal and/or ban incineration: AK, IL, MA, MD, OK. Since PFAS chemicals don’t break down in the environment, PFAS disposal poses huge challenges. Several states are moving to regulate how PFAS waste is disposed of, and some are considering banning its incineration.

  • At least 2 states will consider legislation to designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous under state law: MN, RI. Such action can lead to broader and more effective cleanup and pollution prevention efforts.

  • At least 9 states will consider policies that designate resources for cleanup: CA, FL, MA, ME, MI, MN, NC, WA, WI. Local jurisdictions are struggling to clean up the contamination and states are stepping up efforts to provide resources.

  • At least 2 states (New Hampshire and North Carolina) will consider legislation that would require a polluter to pay for PFAS cleanup. For example, the NH bill would require Saint Gobain Performance Plastics to pay for the cleanup of water in certain wells and water systems that it contaminated in the state.

PFAS and Water

  • At least 15 states will consider legislation to address PFAS in drinking water: AK, AZ, CT, IA, IN, KY, NC, NH, NY, OH, RI, SC, VA, WI, WV.  PFAS contamination has been found in drinking water or groundwater in 2,854 sites in 50 states and two territories, and this is likely just the tip of the iceberg of the PFAS problem when it comes to water.

  • At least 8 states will consider legislation to address PFAS in surface water, groundwater, soil and/or sludge: FL, KY, ME, MN, NC, NH, RI, VT. Surface water and groundwater are connected, and both are important sources of current and future drinking water for US residents. Also, because PFAS doesn’t break down and pollution sources are highly diffuse, the chemicals end up in the sludge/biosolids that are left over after water treatment. When this sludge is spread on farmland, it can contaminate the soil.

  • At least 7 state’s will consider legislation that requires testing, monitoring, and/or disclosure of PFAS in water: AK, IA, NH, NY, RI, VA, WI. The true scope of PFAS contamination is unknown since testing is still somewhat limited. Many states are working to increase testing in order to better document the extent of their pollution problems.

  • In an attempt to address the breadth of the PFAS contamination problem, at least 4 states will be considering creating PFAS task forces to address existing and potential future contamination including MN, NC, VA and WV.

Safer Products

  • At least 4 states will consider policies that strengthen existing safe products policy or create new disclosure provisions: CA, MA, NY, WA. As states deal with toxic chemical challenges, several are stepping up to move broad solutions that both move away from chemicals of concern and help identify safer solutions.

Cosmetics, Toxic Flame Retardants and More

  • At least 10 states will consider policy that restrict or require disclosure on chemicals of concern in cosmetics. In addition to the 5 states listed above that will address PFAS in cosmetics, an additional four will restrict a broader set of chemicals and or require disclosure in cosmetics including MI, NY, VT, WA. There is growing concern about the many chemicals  of concern in cosmetics including parabens, formaldehyde, PFAS and phthalates, especially in products targeted to women of color. A few additional states will consider restricting other specific chemicals in certain cosmetics including NJ (nail products) and MN (skin lighteners).

  • At least 4 states will consider restricting toxic flame retardants in furniture, children’s products, and/or electronics: DE, GA, IA, WV. Flame retardants are a class of chemicals added to furniture, electronics and building materials intended to help prevent fires. Science has proven that many are unnecessary, don’t work well and can be harmful. Flame retardant chemicals have been shown to cause neurological damage, hormone disruption and cancer.

  • Multiple states are considering restrictions on additional chemicals of concern including cadmium, bisphenols, mercury, phthalates in specific product types such as children’s and pet products (NY) receipt paper (MA, NJ, NY) and food containers (PA).

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