Good news! Washington state is banning more food packaging laced with toxic PFAS “forever chemicals.” 

Washington’s Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued a new report finding safer alternatives for five additional kinds of packaging. This will set in motion a ban to take effect in 2024 for those items. A 2021 report found safer alternatives for four packaging types, triggering a ban for next year.

Building on its previous assessment, the agency evaluated the remainder of the major takeout packaging types: bags, trays, bowls, and takeout boxes. It concluded that denser paper-, wax-, and clay-coated papers, and bio-based materials, are safer choices. Eliminating food packaging and moving to reusable food service items is also safer, with the additional benefit of reducing waste.

In its 2021 report, Ecology found safer alternatives for four types of food packaging—wraps and liners, plates, food boats, and pizza boxes. The agency analysis failed to recognize available safer alternatives for a number of other food packaging items, but the law required them to keep looking. With additional analysis and changes in the market, it found safer options for five more categories—bags/sleeves, bowls, flat serviceware (i.e. trays), and open-topped containers.

Since the 2018 adoption of Washington’s law to address PFAS in food packaging, eight additional states (CA, NY, CN, ME, MN, CO, VT, and MD) have adopted their own laws. In response to our Mind the Store campaign, 22 retailers selling food or food packaging are taking action on PFAS in food packaging at more than 140,000 stores worldwide. Even U.S.-based PFAS manufacturers have agreed to a voluntary three-year phase out for food packaging by 2024.

With so much momentum and availability of safer solutions, a federal ban is a no-brainer. The bipartisan Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act, introduced last November, bans the use of PFAS in food packaging but has not yet been taken up by Congress. Now is the time for protections to be put into place for everyone in the United States and to make sure other countries don’t make us the dumping ground for their PFAS food packaging.

Report triggers new Washington rulemaking to regulate the largest-ever number of chemical classes and products by a state—with four chemical classes in 10 product categories 

Restrictions include phthalates in fragrances, BPA in drink can linings, and PFAS in home textiles, among others

OLYMPIA, WA—On Monday, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) released its final report, as part of its Safer Products for Washington law, formalizing its plan to undertake the most significant restriction of toxic chemicals in products ever by a state. Ecology intends to ban four classes of harmful chemicals in 10 product categories.

This report triggers rulemaking that will make Washington the first state in the country to restrict:

  • organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) in foam mats and casings for electronics such as televisions
  • bisphenols in thermal paper and drink can linings
  • phthalates in vinyl (PVC) flooring and fragrances used in beauty and personal care products
  • alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) in laundry detergents

In addition, the state will pursue restrictions on:

  • PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated substances) in carpet, rugs, indoor leather and textile furnishings, and aftermarket stain- and -water resistance treatments used for all leather and textile products.
  • OFR and certain organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) in recreational foam products such as covered floor mats, foam pits, covered flooring, and outdoor recreational products

In issuing the report, Ecology concluded that safer alternatives are available for each of these toxic chemical classes in these products. The agency is developing rules, which will then be adopted by June 2023, as required by law and take effect as early as one year later.

In response to the release of this new report by Washington State Department of Ecology, the following statements were made:

“The only way to protect people, wildlife, food, and water from toxic pollution is to prevent it in the first place, and that’s exactly what this unique and groundbreaking law is doing,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Toxic-Free Future. “The approach is simple: understanding what is safest for people and our planet, and making it a reality. Because of this innovative law, Washington state is at the forefront of taking action on hazardous chemicals and identifying safer solutions.”

“Through the combination of addressing multiple toxic chemicals in everyday products and identifying safer materials and chemicals from the start, Washington state is leading the way toward a healthier marketplace,” said Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States.

“These new actions by Washington state will help reduce toxic chemicals like PFAS and flame retardants that are hiding in consumer products sold at retail,” said Mike Schade, director of Mind the Store, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “We know safer alternatives are available. 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.”

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 the Washington state Departments of Ecology and Health to identify the products that are significant sources of high-priority chemicals, and provides the state authority to take action to reduce their use and prevent exposure and contamination. 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.

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

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.

SAFER STATES

Safer States is an alliance of diverse environmental health organizations and coalitions from across the nation committed to building a healthier world. By harnessing place-based power, the alliance works to safeguard people and the planet from toxic chemicals and sparks innovative solutions for a more sustainable future.

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MEDIA CONTACT

Stephanie Stohler
Communications Director
sstohler@toxicfreefuture.org  

 

Washington state has been a leader in preventing PFAS pollution, banning these harmful chemicals in product categories to address contamination of drinking water. But with continued use of these persistent and toxic chemicals in key products such as apparel, our job in Washington is far from done.   Continue reading