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What is the Safer Products for Washington Act?

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.

About the law

The Safer Products for Washington law directs state agencies to identify the products that are significant sources of high-priority chemicals and provides authority to take action to reduce them. Washington’s Department of Ecology 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. It can also require companies to provide full ingredient information in products in order to make regulatory determinations under the law.

Why it’s important

A growing body of science and Toxic-Free Future’s own 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 are significant for governments, taxpayers, and businesses. Prioritizing prevention of pollution and disease makes the most sense. Alternatives are rapidly coming onto the market to replace hazardous chemicals like PFAS.

The Washington state approach is an important model. It is not only resulting in bans on the worst chemicals, it defines safer solutions using hazard-based tools (such as GreenScreen and ChemForward), that are also feasible and available.

Governments, manufacturers, and retailers should be aligning to this approach for all chemicals management, eliminating toxic chemicals with proven safer solutions.

What's happening now

  • Summer/Fall 2023: The Washington Department of Ecology is developing proposed restrictions on PFAS in products under the accelerated timeline established by the legislature in 2022. 
  • July 2023: The Washington Department of Ecology announced its proposed set of priority chemical classes for Cycle 2. Toxic-Free Future delivered more than 180 direct messages in support of this proposal as well as a sign-on letter to Ecology and Governor Inslee and a detailed comment letter to Ecology. These priorities will allow Ecology to tackle key toxic plastics such as PVC as well as known toxic chemicals including lead and cancer-causing petrochemicals.
  • May 2023: the Washington Department of Ecology signed a final rule that, for the first time ever, bans toxic chemicals—including PFAS, phthalates, flame retardants, and bisphenols—put in plastic electronic casings, vinyl flooring, and beverage liners, among other products. These new rules conclude “Cycle 1” of regulations as part of Safer Products for Washington.

From the Experts

Cheri Peele

“Strong regulatory actions are needed to protect vulnerable populations and vulnerable species, from pregnant women and children to salmon and orcas. Protecting the most vulnerable, including highly impacted communities, is core to the Safer Products for Washington Law—and the only solution is prevention. Especially for persistent chemicals, limits need to be as close to zero as possible. All organohalogens need to be banned to achieve a circular economy. Products with hazardous organohalogens can’t be recycled, because they wind up in other products from toys to kitchen utensils.”

Cheri Peele
Senior project manager, Toxic-Free Future

“The use of organohalogens in flame retardants threatens the health of firefighters. Cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters. And we have much higher rates of cancer than the general population. Substituting safer alternatives or organohalogen flame retardants is pure common sense and reduces unnecessary exposure to chemicals that can cause a range of health effects including cancer.”

AJ Johnson
Legislative liaison, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters (WSCFF)

“Treating organohalogens as a class is a widespread practice in the electronics industry. There are clearly safer alternatives to these flame retardants in these applications that meet fire safety standards.”

Dr. Mark Rossi
Executive director, Clean Production Action

“My husband, two small children and I have been unknowingly exposed to high levels of PFAS chemicals through our drinking water. I have a disease that exposure to forever chemicals is linked to. If I had been given a choice, if the knowledge had been shared, if people that knew about PFAS chemicals before me had informed me, I would have NEVER knowingly exposed the health and safety of myself and family. We the people have a right to say NO to forever chemicals. Every exposure pathway should be eliminated whether it be water, cookware, food packaging, textiles, firefighting foam…Please protect our Earth and bodies. Moving forward with this rule will create positive change. Pursue PFAS free.”

Brandi Hyatt
Yakima, WA

“BPA is a well-studied reproductive toxicant associated with fertility effects and low birth weights… For these reasons, BPA is banned from receipt paper in the European Union and BPS and other bisphenols are targeted for regulatory action. Better options are readily available. Companies can avoid automatically printing receipts and offer an electronic receipt option. For receipts that do get printed, several non-bisphenol drop-in replacements are available.”

Dr. Gillian Miller
Senior scientist, Ecology Center

“I cannot overstate what a serious problem widespread use of halogenated flame retardants and PFAS have created. Among the most highly exposed include infants, young children, workers including fire fighters and construction workers, and indigenous populations. We are all initially exposed in the womb, then via breast milk and in our homes through our products. We are all secondarily exposed through their ubiquitous presence in our outdoor environment where they migrate and accumulate in our foods – crops, livestock, fish and seafood. PFAS additionally travel with the water cycle into our drinking water, aquaculture, and agriculture. Widespread exposure and health effects of phthalates, phenols, halogenated flame retardants and PFAS are well documented and it’s time to take decisive action. I support the proposed rule and recommend its full adoption.”

Dr. Courtney Carignan
Assistant professor, Michigan State University

Washington: Ban Toxic PFAS!

Washington state has been a leader in the nation as the first to ban the entire class of PFAS in food packaging and firefighting foam. It has also taken numerous actions to address contamination and limit PFAS in drinking water. We need urgent action to end remaining uses of PFAS, clean up contamination, and hold polluters accountable.

More
A group of people standing in a circle, holding cast iron and stainless steel pans

Cycle 2: Safer Products for Washington

The Washington Department of Ecology launched Cycle 2 of Safer Products for Washington with the proposal of seven new “Priority Chemicals and Chemical Classes.” Read more.

 

Cycle 2 Timeline

Cycle 1.5: Safer Products for Washington

Cycle 1.5 was introduced during the 2022 Washington State Legislative Session and is meant to focus on PFAS in a number of consumer products, including apparel and gear, firefighting personal protective equipment, cleaning products, waxes, nonstick cookware and kitchen supplies, and hard surface sealants.

Cycle 1.5 Timeline
  • January 22, 2024 Toxic-Free Future submitted comments on the Cycle 1.5 Draft Regulatory Determinations Report, supporting the determinations to restrict PFAS. TFF also urged Ecology to fully use its authority to call in information on alternatives to PFAS in other product categories. This would enable the department to identify safer alternatives for these categories and propose additional PFAS restrictions.
  • December 6, 2023 The Department of Ecology published the Cycle 1.5 Draft Regulatory Determinations Report, which recommended bans on PFAS in most apparel, cleaning products, and automotive washes. It also proposed reporting requirements of PFAS in multiple product categories, including extended wear apparel, firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE), floor and ski waxes, shoes, gear, hard-surface sealants, and cookware.
  • June 21, 2023 – The Washington Department of Ecology launched Cycle 1.5 with their preliminary conclusions.

Cycle 1: Safer Products for Washington

This chart details the chemical restrictions and reporting requirements included in the final rule from Cycle 1.

Our analysis

Toxic-Free Future strongly supports the Cycle 1 adopted rule, which will:

  • 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, alkyphenol ethoxylates, and bisphenols
  • Drive the demand for safe, sustainable products
Cycle 1 Timeline
  • May 31, 2023 – The Department of Ecology signed a final rule, banning toxic chemicals—including PFAS, phthalates, flame retardants, and bisphenols—put in plastic electronic casings, vinyl flooring, and beverage liners, among other products. These new rules conclude the first cycle of regulations as part of Safer Products for Washington.
  • February 14, 2023 – Toxic-Free Future, along with 25 local and national organizations, submitted a joint letter of support for the proposed regulation to the Director of the Washington Department of Ecology and Governor Jay Inslee.
  • February 5, 2023 – Toxic-Free Future submitted comments on the proposed regulation to implement the Safer Products for Washington law.
  • December 7, 2022 – The Department of Ecology issued a draft rule to restrict four chemical classes in ten product categories – the largest-ever number of chemical classes and products by a state. The rule also requires reporting on the presence of three chemical classes in four product categories, which will inform future policy decisions.
  • August 31, 2022 – Toxic-Free Future submitted comments on the pre-draft regulation to implement the Safer Products for Washington law.
  • June 8, 2022 – The Department of Ecology issued a final report to the state legislature formalizing its plans to pursue regulatory restrictions on four classes of chemicals in 10 product categories—the largest-ever number of chemical classes and products by a state.
  • January 28, 2022 – Toxic-Free Future submitted comments to the Washington Department of Ecology.
Source: Washington State Department of Ecology For more information: Washington Department of Ecology’s implementation timeline and process.
More information

This regulation RESTRICTS:

  • PFAS in aftermarket stain and water-resistance treatments, in both indoor and outdoor carpets and rugs, and in indoor leather and textile furnishings
  • Ortho-phthalates in vinyl flooring and in fragrances in beauty products and personal care products
  • Organohalogen flame retardants in plastic external enclosures of indoor electronics
  • Organohalogen flame retardants, along with certain organophosphate flame retardants, in recreational products made from polyurethane foam (excludes covered wall padding)
  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates in laundry detergents
  • Bisphenols in drink can linings and thermal paper

The regulation also requires that manufacturers REPORT to the Department of Ecology on the presence of certain chemicals of high concern in priority product categories, including:

  • PFAS outdoor leather and textile furnishings
  • Organohalogen flame retardants in plastic external enclosures of outdoor electronics and in recreational covered wall padding made from polyurethane foam
  • Bisphenols in food can linings