Public health advocates urge more action to end PFAS contamination
SEATTLE, WA— Today, the Washington State Department of Ecology issued a draft report to the legislature proposing new restrictions on the “forever chemicals,” per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), under its Safer Products law.
The agency is recommending bans on PFAS in apparel, cleaning products, and automotive washes. It is also proposing to require reporting of PFAS in several product categories, including firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE), floor and ski waxes, shoes, gear, hard-surface sealants, and cookware.
In 2022, the Washington State Legislature adopted a law to put the state on an urgent timeline to ban PFAS in products, responding to increasing contamination of drinking water in the state, rising costs of cleanup, and detections of current-use PFAS in breastmilk doubling every four years.
The draft report is available for public comment through January 12, 2024.
In response to this set of recommendations, Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Toxic-Free Future, stated the following:
“We urgently need to ban the continued use of PFAS in all products to protect drinking water, public health, and the environment. While Ecology has made some good progress toward banning PFAS, the agency needs to use all the tools in its toolbox to act faster and more comprehensively to stop PFAS pollution.
Ecology has made a good start by identifying many of the major sources and uses of PFAS and proposing to ban PFAS in apparel, cleaning products, and automotive washes. These bans will go a long way in protecting health and drinking water from these ‘forever chemicals.’
Ecology needs to move forward quickly to get the information it needs to identify safer alternatives for the remaining important sources. Since companies haven’t voluntarily provided information on the ingredients used in their products, Ecology needs to order them to report it using the authority granted in the Safer Products law. With PFAS continuing to contaminate our drinking water, we can’t afford to wait for companies to volunteer the information.
The agency has proposed requirements for companies to report on the use of PFAS, but we already know they are used in the product categories identified. It’s time to require information from companies so that the agency can assess the hazards of the alternatives, determine what’s safer, and move forward with bans on PFAS-containing products.”
BACKGROUND ON SAFER PRODUCTS FOR WASHINGTON LAW
The Safer Products for Washington Act is the nation’s strongest law regulating toxic chemicals in products—a major source of contamination in our homes, food, waterways, and bodies. Washington state passed this precedent-setting legislation in 2019, which helps protect people and the environment from toxic pollution. The law plays an important role in making products safer nationwide by helping to drive the transformation of global supply chains.
On May 31, 2023, Washington’s Department of Ecology finalized regulations from Cycle 1 of the Safer Products for Washington law, which included first-ever bans on toxic chemicals put in plastic electronic casings, vinyl flooring, and beverage liners, among others.
In this new phase, Ecology is recommending bans on PFAS in apparel, cleaning products, and automotive washes. Examples of apparel covered by this restriction include rainwear, school uniforms, athletic wear, reusable diapers, and menstrual underwear.
A growing body of science and Toxic-Free Future’s 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 even us. Costs of cleanup and health impacts due to these chemicals such as the toxic “forever chemicals” PFAS are significant for governments, taxpayers, and businesses.
The findings of safer alternatives, as required by the Safer Products for Washington law, uses hazard-based tools such as GreenScreen and ChemFORWARD, which are also helping manufacturers and retailers transition to safer chemicals and materials.
Retailers and brands are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to eliminate hazardous chemicals in key product sectors, according to Toxic-Free Future’s annual Retailer Report Card. A number of major retailers have already adopted voluntary policies to reduce and eliminate a number of dangerous chemicals and plastics including PFAS, ortho-phthalates, organohalogen flame retardants, PVC plastic, and bisphenols.
Toxic-Free Future is a national leader in environmental health research and advocacy. Through the power of science, education, and activism, Toxic-Free Future drives strong laws and corporate responsibility that protects the health of all people and the planet.