Clean and Healthy Waters

The Issue

While fish, birds, and orcas don’t use consumer products that contain harmful chemicals, many of the toxic chemicals put in these products and found in our homes and bodies also pollute Washington’s surface waters and wildlife.

Emerging contaminants like highly fluorinated nonstick PFAS chemicals, flame retardants, and phthalates have been found in Puget Sound, the Columbia River, and other surface waters, as well as in wildlife living in or near these waters. Not only do these chemicals cause health problems for wildlife, but they contaminate fish and increase exposure to communities that consume high amounts of locally caught seafood.

A large source of chemicals to the state’s waterways is wastewater treatment plants. Chemicals put in consumer products escape the products in our homes, contaminate house dust, and are then washed down the drain in laundry water and enter the food web.

Because some of these chemicals don’t break down easily, they move through the environment for many years. Washington state has spent millions of taxpayer dollars cleaning up waterways. Yet there are still many areas left to clean up even while new chemicals pollute the environment.

We need to break this cycle of polluting, cleaning up, and then re-polluting. This toxic treadmill is ineffective. Eventually time will run out for the state’s waterways and wildlife that depend on them for food and habitat.

The Solution

Future generations should be able to enjoy the benefits of a healthy and thriving environment. Eliminating the use of chemicals in consumer products is an effective way to reduce levels of the chemicals in the environment. For example, after the phase out of PBDE flame retardants in consumer products, levels of the chemicals decreased in Puget Sound, harbor seals, Pacific herring, and English sole.

Toxic-Free Future focuses on preventing water pollution by stopping the use of harmful chemicals in consumer products and manufacturing.

Specifically, Toxic-Free Future is working to:

  • Ban the use of classes of emerging chemicals that are polluting Puget Sound and other state waterways, including phthalates, PFAS chemicals, and the hazardous class of flame retardants called organohalogens.
  • Expand existing laws to require companies to disclose and phase out toxic chemicals that are harming Puget Sound and other state waterways.
  • Create incentives to remove and dispose of legacy products that contain toxic chemicals and ensure all people have access to safer products.
  • Require manufacturers to asses and use safer alternatives to avoid the “regrettable substitution problem” of replacing a banned chemical with an equally harmful chemical.
  • Ensure proper disposal of products that contain toxic chemicals, like PFAS-containing firefighting foam.

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