Proposed restriction would make Washington the first state in nation to restrict PFAS “forever chemicals” in upholstery, among other firsts
Toxic-Free Future applauds the precedent-setting move and urges fast action
SEATTLE, W.A.—Yesterday, Washington state moved forward with next steps to ban dangerous classes of chemicals through its groundbreaking Safer Products for Washington law. In a draft report to the state legislature, the Washington state Department of Ecology (Ecology) proposes state-wide chemical restrictions on five classes of chemicals in eleven product categories, the largest number of chemical classes and products to ever be considered by a state at one time. Washington would be the first state in the country to restrict PFAS in upholstery; organohalogen flame retardants in foam mats; bisphenols in thermal paper; bisphenols in drink can linings; phthalates in flooring; and, phthalates in beauty and personal care products. The agency has identified safer, feasible alternatives to these classes of harmful chemicals for each of the product categories.
“Ecology’s proposal marks a tremendous step forward. By ending use of these toxics in products, the state is taking a prevention-based approach that will reduce pollution in homes, communities, orcas and people, and avoid associated health-care and cleanup costs,” said Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director of Toxic-Free Future. “We will remain ever vigilant to make sure these restrictions are put into place as quickly as possible so that people, wildlife, food, and water are protected.”
The Washington State Legislature directed Ecology to take action on these harmful chemical classes to reduce the exposure of vulnerable populations (e.g. children, people of childbearing age, highly impacted communities) and wildlife (e.g. salmon, orcas) to chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, immune suppression, and harm to the developing brain.
Ecology proposes to move forward with rules to restrict:
- Per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) in carpet, rugs, leather and textile furnishings, and aftermarket treatments used for these products;
- Organohalogen flame retardants (OFR) in external device casings for electric and electronic products;
- OFR and certain organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) in recreational foam products such as foam mats, covered floor mats, covered flooring and outdoor recreational products;
- Bisphenols in drink can linings and thermal paper;
- Phthalates in fragrances used for beauty and personal care products and PVC (vinyl) plastic flooring;
- Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) in detergents; and,
- PCBs in household paints, spray paints, children’s paints, road paints, and in certain inks such as black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.
In most cases, adoption of rules would make Washington the first state to ban the chemical class in the named product category. Ecology is moving forward on these restrictions after making a finding in each case that safer alternatives are feasible and available. Many large retailers are also adopting restrictions on these same chemicals. Ecology is proposing disclosure requirements for manufacturers that use bisphenols in food can linings and use of certain flame retardants (OFRs and OPFRs) in covered wall padding.
“It is clear that for the majority of products that contain harmful chemicals, for example when PFAS are used in textiles, there are safer alternatives and even more action should be taken more quickly,” concluded Valeriano. “Major retailers are already restricting many of these same chemicals and products. The proposed actions would help level the playing field for businesses in Washington state.”
The agency will be accepting comments on the draft report until January 14, 2022 and moving to the development of rules, which are required by law to take effect by June 2023.
BACKGROUND ON SAFER PRODUCTS FOR WASHINGTON
In 2019, Washington State passed precedent-setting legislation protecting people and the environment from toxic pollution. The Safer Products for Washington Act is now the nation’s strongest law regulating toxic chemicals in products, which are a major source of contamination in our homes, food, waterways, and bodies. The new law will help stop the use of thousands of chemicals in millions of products by addressing chemicals as classes; tackle high-priority chemicals first⸺PFAS, flame retardants, phthalates, alkylphenol ethoxylates, bisphenols, and PCBs; and drive the demand for sustainable products.
The law directs Washington state agencies to identify the products that are the biggest sources of exposure to high-priority chemicals, and provides the state authority to take action to reduce exposure. Agencies can ban or require disclosure of harmful chemicals in a wide range of products, from plastics and personal care products to electronics and building materials. Toxic-Free Future has advocated for more products to be addressed under the law more immediately, including PFAS in firefighting turnout gear and apparel.
A growing body of science and Toxic-Free Future’s original research have documented that chemicals escape out of products into dust and air in our homes, travel through wastewater, and pollute homes, waters, the food supply, and people. Costs of cleanup and health impacts due to these chemicals are in the billions for governments, taxpayers, and businesses. Prioritizing prevention of pollution and disease makes the most sense.
Toxic-Free Future (TFF) is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that advances the use of safer products, chemicals, and practices through science, organizing, advocacy, and consumer engagement to ensure a healthier tomorrow. Safer Chemicals Healthy Families is a Toxic-Free Future program dedicated to achieving strong federal policies that protect the public from toxic chemicals. Mind the Store is a Toxic-Free Future program that challenges retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives, and scores major retailers on their safer chemicals policies in an annual Retailer Report Card.