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States in the Lead: Six Key Takeaways from 2024 State Legislative Sessions

As we approach the midyear, many state legislative sessions have concluded or are winding down. As of today, 12 states have adopted at least 20 policies that aim to transform our economic system into one that protects communities and creates incentives for industry to develop safer chemicals and materials. We anticipate this momentum to continue in the states that still have active legislative sessions. 

Six key takeaways have emerged from this year’s legislative sessions that have helped make this year to be quite remarkable. 

1) States have continued to take bold action to protect communities from PFAS and other chemicals of concern. 

This year, broad policies that restrict PFAS chemicals in various consumer products were adopted in four states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont. More specifically:

  • Colorado adopted a broad bill banning PFAS in certain outdoor apparel, cleaning products, cookware, dental floss, menstruation products, ski wax, and textile articles. Notably, the new law prohibits the installation of artificial turf containing PFAS on state property. 
  • Similarly, Connecticut adopted a broad bill banning PFAS in apparel, turnout gear, carpets or rugs, cleaning products, cookware, cosmetic products, dental floss, fabric treatments, children’s products, menstrual products, textile furnishings, ski wax, upholstered furniture, and outdoor apparel for severe wet condition. The new law also establishes a PFAS testing account to fund testing for PFAS contamination. 
  • Rhode Island also adopted a broad bill banning PFAS in certain products, including, artificial turf, carpets or rugs, cookware, cosmetics, fabric treatments, juvenile products, menstrual products, ski wax, textile articles, and outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions.  
  • Vermont adopted first-ever restrictions on PFAS in incontinence products, cosmetic and menstrual products, artificial turf, textiles, cookware, and juvenile products. 

Maine reinforced its commitment to addressing the PFAS crisis with revisions to its groundbreaking PFAS law, ensuring its original intent and mandates while addressing resource constraints. The law includes a ban on PFAS in key product categories including cookware, textiles, children’s products, cosmetics, menstrual products, and several other products. 

New Jersey became the latest state to ban PFAS in firefighting foam and establish a collection and disposal program, furthering efforts to protect firefighters and prevent contamination. 

States are also appropriating money to address the PFAS crisis. Kentucky allocated approximately $3 million to support additional personnel and operating costs associated with the analysis of PFAS, while New York allocated $500,000 to the State University of New York at Stony Brook for a new laboratory testing facility for PFOA and other chemicals.

On the West Coast, Washington state banned lead and lead-containing components in cookware. Washington also directed the state to quickly evaluate and identify safer alternatives to 6PPD, a chemical additive to motorized vehicle tires that is getting into waterways and killing salmon. 

2) There is strong momentum for safer personal care products. 

So far this year, five states adopted policies to address toxics in personal care products. Vermont adopted a nation-leading bill banning 17 toxic chemicals and classes of chemicals including phthalates, formaldehyde, PFAS, mercury, and lead in menstrual and personal care products. The policy was adopted unanimously all along its legislative journey and includes educational outreach to highly impacted communities to help identify safer alternatives. 

Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, and Rhode Island also adopted policies that include restrictions on PFAS in menstrual and cosmetic products, responding to PFAS identified in the settled Thinkx lawsuit and independent testing of menstrual products.  

3) States are taking more action to address plastics and toxics. 

The connection between plastics and our health continues to grow as more and more science finds that plastics and plastic additives are threatening human health. A recent eye-opening report from Alaska Community Action on Toxics and International Pollutants Elimination Network shed new light on the threats of plastics, petrochemicals, and climate change for Arctic Peoples. 

In response to the growing plastic crisis, three states adopted policies so far this year, including: 

  • Minnesota adopted a provision in an omnibus bill that creates a boat wrap product stewardship program to reduce the 6 million pounds of plastic boat wrap thrown away every year. The omnibus bill also includes a packaging waste reduction policy that eliminates toxic substances in certain packaging products. 
  • New Jersey directed its state environmental department to test for microplastics in drinking water; and
  • Maine adopted a proactive policy providing that “chemical recycling” facilities are subject to stricter regulation and that “chemical recycling” is not considered recycling under state law. Maine also adopted a policy allowing consumers to use their own containers for refill. 

4) Definitions matter. 

The chemical industry tried to persuade state legislators to adopt a definition of PFAS that is inconsistent with the science and the definition adopted by 23 states. The chemical industry definition would allow industry to continue to use certain “forever chemicals” including ones that are being found in the blood of firefighters. Fortunately, states are stepping up and successfully pushing back, ensuring a strong definition of PFAS that provides maximum protection against these toxic chemicals. 

5) EPA standards followed state action on PFAS in drinking water. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized historic drinking water standards for six individual PFAS “forever chemicals”. Prior to federal action, 11 states had adopted drinking water standards and an additional 12 states had adopted guidance levels, health advisories, or notification levels for certain PFAS chemicals. These actions paved the way for EPA action. 

Additionally, the EPA also announced a final rule designating two PFAS compounds (PFOA and PFOS) as “hazardous substances” under the federal program, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly known as “Superfund.” Similarly, eight states have designated PFAS chemicals to their state “superfund” lists. This new federal action will make it easier to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up their toxic contamination and complements state action to reduce PFAS use and fund cleanup initiatives. 

6) More State Attorneys General are taking legal action against chemical manufacturers.

Holding polluters accountable remains a top priority for states. This year, the State Attorneys General of Indiana and Connecticut filed litigation against PFAS manufacturers for their role in contaminating drinking water and harming communities. As part of their lawsuit announcement, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said, “We’re taking action today to hold these companies accountable for their clear violation of laws designed to protect human health. For decades, they sought to hide research showing that their products were extremely dangerous to people everywhere, including Hoosiers. And they did it so they could make million-dollar profits at the cost of our health and well-being.” 

Currently, a total of 30 State Attorneys General have initiated legal action against such companies, and as told in this New York Times story, “the legal battle is just beginning.” Lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers and plastic makers who use PFAS are expected to increase.

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