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Time to celebrate: States lead the way against toxic chemicals in products and packaging

For many states across the country, the 2019 legislative session has come to a close. And congratulations are in order for legislators and organizations across the country who have spearheaded the fight for new state laws to protect us from toxic chemicals!

With the Trump administration doing little to protect us from chemicals such as phthalates and PFAS in products, some state governments are taking the lead. And in some cases, when companies change their practices in one state to comply with the law there, the changes may benefit their customers across the country. Here are a few reasons to celebrate!

Maine: Safe Food Packaging Act

The Maine Legislature unanimously passed the Safe Food Packaging Act and it is expected to be signed by Governor Janet Mills. It’s a first-in-the-nation bill banning all phthalates and PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from food packaging and clears the way for restricting other toxic chemicals from food packaging.

For most Americans, food is the main way we’re exposed to phthalates and PFAS. The Food and Drug Administration has failed to sufficiently regulate health-harming chemicals in food packaging. Our recent report Take Out Toxics: PFAS Chemicals in Food Packaging found nearly two-thirds of grocery store paper take-out containers, like those used at self-serve salad and hot bars, contained elevated levels of fluorine, indicating they were likely treated with PFAS.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jessica Fay and co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Foley. Congratulations to them and Environmental Health Strategy Center!

Washington: Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act

Washington state now has the nation’s strongest policy regulating toxic chemicals in products after Governor Jay Inslee signed the Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act. The new law prioritizes five classes of chemicals for action: PFAS, organohalogen flame retardants, phthalates, alkylphenol ethoxylates and bisphenols, and PCBs.

The new law gives state agencies the authority to ban chemicals and require disclosure of harmful chemicals in a wide range of products—from carpets and personal care products to electronics and building materials. The law addresses classes of chemicals that pose a special health threat to sensitive populations, such as pregnant women and children, and sensitive species, such as the endangered southern resident orcas and their prey, Chinook salmon.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Rolfes and Representative Doglio. Congratulations to them, Toxic-Free Future, and the diverse coalition of more than 40 health, environmental, orca recovery, faith, and community organizations that supported the bill!

Minnesota: Firefighter and Children’s Health Protection Act

With bipartisan support, Minnesota passed the Firefighter and Children’s Health Protection Act and it was signed into law by Governor Tim Walz. The new law prohibits the manufacture and sale of upholstered furniture, mattresses, textiles and children’s products that contain flame retardant chemicals. These chemicals pose serious health risks to consumers and to firefighters who are exposed during fires and studies have shown that they are ineffective at stopping fires.

The new law also restricts the use of firefighting foam that contains PFAS chemicals, which have contaminated several drinking water sources in Minnesota.

The bill was authored by Representative Jamie Becker-Finn and Senator Jeff Howe. Congratulations to them and the bill’s supporters, including Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters, Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association, Minnesota State Volunteer Firefighters Association, Clean Water Action Minnesota, and the Healthy Legacy Coalition.

Other states

Many other states have passed important bills this year and some legislatures are still in session. To see what’s happening in your state, check out the bill tracker of toxics policies from Safer States.