Toxic PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) “forever chemicals” (a family of over 5,000 chemical compounds) are ubiquitous in the U.S. and are found in nonstick cookware, bake ware and cooking utensils, electronics and tech devices, stain-proof, as well as waterproof clothing, carpeting and furniture, cosmetics, perfumes and moisturizers, and many, many other personal and household products, as well as in the soil, air and water–including drinking water in public systems and private wells. PFAS chemicals (especially the most commonly used ones…PFOA, PFOS, C604 and GenX) have been linked in scientific studies to serious health consequences such as increased cancer risk, kidney disease, celiac disease, and weakened immune systems, among other serious adverse health consequences.
PFAS chemicals have among the strongest bonds in chemistry and at the present time there is no ‘death’ of these chemicals, meaning they do not break down over time, but appear they will live on “forever”. PFAS chemicals are not regulated by the U.S. government so it is up to individual states to determine and regulate PFAS chemicals to protect their residents. Many states are not addressing the PFAS problem, but some are. Below are some state laws being proposed or enacted to help protect state residents by at least minimizing exposure to the dangers of PFAS. If you know of a state with existing or planned bills/laws to protect residents by minimizing PFAS exposure, please contact us here. As new state bans and laws are enacted we will add them to this post so be sure to check back later.
Minnesota Bill Bans PFAS Forever Chemicals in Food Packaging–Sort Of
Minnesota is set to ban “forever chemicals” in food packaging such as burger wrappers and takeout containers, joining a handful of other states with such bans on the harmful pollutants. The Minnesota PFAS ban affects the chemicals “intentionally added” in the packaging, not PFAS that may unintentionally adulterate food packaging such as from nonstick spray used on manufacturing equipment, and the like.
The Minnesota bill also authorizes more than $2.5 million to address PFAS pollution, including reducing the sources of the chemicals that end up at wastewater treatment plants and solid waste facilities.
The Senate passed the bill 49-16 Tuesday evening June 22, 2021, and it now heads to the House for a vote.
Maine Enacts Strict Laws on PFAS Forever Chemicals in Drinking Water
Maine lawmakers have passed a sweeping set of bills aimed at addressing the growing problems posed by PFAS* “forever chemicals” that have shut down several farms and contaminated dozens of private wells across the state. One of the bills signed into law by the governor in late June 2021 gives Maine one of the nation’s strictest standards for PFAS in drinking water.
Maine has garnered national attention recently over the potential for PFAS contamination in agricultural fertilizer. And last year, state regulators testing a diary farm in Maine found PFAS levels more than 150 times higher than the state’s milk standard. Since then, more than 60 private wells in all located near fields that received biosolids have since been shown to have unsafe levels of PFAS. Many of those homeowners, some of whom have been drinking water containing 300 to 400 times as much PFAS as the federal health advisory level, pleaded with lawmakers this year to tighten Maine’s standards and give homeowners more time to sue responsible parties. Another bill that passed the Legislature and is on the governor’s desk, L.D. 363, would extend the statute of limitations to six years after the discovery of PFAS contamination.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers sent a clear signal this legislative session that Maine should move aggressively on PFAS pollution rather than wait for federal action. Bills passed with broad, often-unanimous support and would set among the nation’s strictest limits on PFAS pollution in drinking water, prohibit the uncontrolled testing of PFAS-laced firefighting foam, and provide millions of dollars to detect and clean up contamination.
Another of the new bills just signed into law by the Maine governor would establish a limit of 20 parts per trillion for six types of PFAS in drinking water. Although not as stringent as standards adopted or under consideration in a few other states, the 20 parts per trillion level for the six compounds is significantly lower than the federal government’s current “advisory level” 70 parts per trillion for two compounds. The bill, L.D. 129, also would require all public water utilities as well as schools and daycare facilities using private wells to begin testing for PFAS by the end of next year and to take steps to remediate any elevated levels.
Three other major PFAS-related measures that have passed and are awaiting funding decisions: L.D. 1503, which would allow the DEP to ban the sale of products containing “intentionally added” PFAS**, and L.D. 1505, which would require reporting of firefighting foam containing PFAS and would prohibit testing of such foams unless the material is collected for proper disposal, and L.D. 1600, which would require the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to test soil and groundwater at every site that received sludge or septic waste prior to 2019.
The governor has made PFAS a high priority of her administration, beginning with the creation of a task force whose recommendations served as the basis for many of the bills approved by lawmakers this year. The governor also recommended spending $40 million in the current budget to assist farmers impacted by PFAS, to clean up contaminated sites and to provide affected homeowners with safe drinking water. Several PFAS-related bills are now on the “appropriations table” awaiting funding decisions.
*PFAS has been dubbed “forever chemicals” because of their strong chemical bonds and persistence in human bodies, animals and the environment. PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) have been used for decades in a vast array of consumer goods, including nonstick cookware, water- or stain-repellent fabrics and grease-resistant food packaging. Some compounds have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer, kidney malfunction and immune system suppression.
**While the statewide ban in Maine does not take affect until January 2030, manufacturers will have to begin reporting the presence of PFAS chemicals in their products to the Maine Department of Environmental Quality starting in January 2023.
Maine’s ban on ‘forever chemicals’ marks a big win for some scientists
Last month, a group of scientists scored an unexpected win in chemical regulation: The state of Maine became the world’s first jurisdiction to ban the sale of products containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). The controversial chemicals are common in consumer goods such as nonstick cookware. By 2030, Maine will forbid selling products that use PFASs unless regulators determine their use is “currently unavoidable.”
The law, adopted 15 July, targets a family of chemicals that includes some 5000 compounds, including several banned under the international Stockholm Convention because they threaten human health. Because PFASs have a similar basic structure that can persist in the environment for long periods, some researchers have argued governments should drop the traditional approach of regulating them one by one. Instead, they want regulators to restrict the entire class, requiring manufacturers who want to use a PFAS in a product to prove the chemical’s use is “essential” for health, safety, or the functioning of society, and that there are no alternatives.
New York Bans PFAS Chemicals from Fast Food Packaging
New York has now banned the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS) in food packaging. Companies found violating the law will be subject to a $10,000 first-time fine with subsequent violations reaching up to $25,000 penalty.
Vermont Passes Law Restricting PFAS in Food Packaging, Ski Wax and Carpets
What Does the Vermont PFAS Legislation Do?
The Vermont PFAS legislation would impose several significant restrictions with respect to PFAS, including:
Impose restrictions on the use, manufacture, sale, and distribution of class B firefighting foam containing PFAS, unless such foams are required by federal law (the bill also prohibits the use of PFAS firefighting foam for training exercises);
Impose restrictions on the production, sale, and distribution of food packaging to which PFAS have been intentionally added;
Impose restrictions on the manufacture, sale, and distribution of residential rugs and carpets to which PFAS have been intentionally added, as well as the use of after-market treatment products that contain PFAS;
Ban the manufacture, sale and distribution of PFAS-containing ski wax, if the PFAS was intentionally added; and
Include three types of PFAS (PFHxS, PFHpA, PFNA) on the list of chemicals of high concern to children.
While many of the provisions mirror PFAS legislation in other states, the provisions related to carpets, rugs, and ski wax would be the first of their kind in the United States.
Washington State Enacted Sweeping Law to Regulate PFAS and Other Chemicals in Consumer Products and Packaging
The strongest state chemicals bill in the country was signed into Washington state law in 2019. The law empowers the state Department of Ecology (Ecology) to restrict the use of chemicals in virtually any consumer product and its packaging. The department is first directed to focus on chemicals listed in the law – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), phthalates, certain flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and phenolic compounds – and then to identify other chemicals for potential restriction.
The law could impact virtually any consumer products – defined as “any item, including any component parts and packaging, sold for residential or commercial use” – that are not covered by an express exemption. Exemptions are available for inaccessible electronic components, motorized vehicles, and certain other federally-regulated products (e.g., food, drugs, and tobacco). The law could also impact the packaging of consumer products whether or not the products themselves are exempt. Before the state may restrict the use of chemicals in any consumer product or packaging, the product or packaging must be identified by Ecology as a priority product. Ecology must identify a first round of priority products by June 1, 2020. As part of its priority product selection process, Ecology may require consumer product manufacturers to disclose product or packaging composition information to the state.
Chemicals restricted in Washington State
- Certain flame retardants like PBDE
- Phenolic compounds
The designation of the entire class of PFAS compounds, which includes thousands of substances with widely varying chemical profiles, as priority chemicals will have far-reaching implications for consumer products sold in Washington. Washington already banned intentionally added PFAS in Class B firefighting foams effective July 1, 2020, and requires notification of the presence of PFAS in firefighter protective gear. The scope of impact will depend on whether the state Ecology limits the use of specific PFAS compounds, or focuses on specific consumer products, or both. The range of industries potentially affected is vast, including manufacturers of textiles, paper, and packaging (including food packaging), coatings, rubber, and plastics.
Massachusetts Bill Focuses on PFAS in Cookware
Massachusetts and California have pending bills that would impact the use of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) in cookware.
Massachusetts H.2350 and S.1387 (identical bills) call for the general prohibition of selling or distributing select consumer products in which “Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances” or “PFAS substances” have been intentionally added or, if not intentionally added, are present and measurable by testing for total fluorine at a level greater than 1 part per million (ppm). The bill defines “PFAS substances” as “a class of fluorinated organic chemicals containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom.” One of the classes of consumer products covered by the pending bill is cookware. Prior to the effective date of the ban, manufacturers of covered products must test products for fluorine to determine whether the PFAS substances are present at levels greater than 1 ppm.
California Bill Focuses on PFAS in Cookware
California’s AB 1200 bans PFAS in paper-based food packaging (source). In addition, AB 1200 will also require disclosure for use of toxic chemicals in cookware As of January 1, 2023, manufacturers of cookware containing such chemicals will be required to post on the internet the listed chemicals contained in their cookware products and link to the authoritative lists for the relevant substances. As of January 1, 2024, cookware will be required to include listed chemicals on the product label, and provide an internet link and toll-free number where consumers can obtain more information on the chemicals. In addition, as of January 1, 2024, the law will prohibit cookware manufacturers from claiming that cookware is free of any specific chemical on the list if the chemical belongs to the same chemical group or class of chemicals that are listed. All PFAS chemicals are candidate chemicals under California’s Green Chemistry program.
California bans PFAS chemicals from baby products and food packaging
The law banning PFAS in food packaging applies to all kinds of paper and plant-based containers, wrappers and straws, and also requires that cookware containing them include a warning label. The law on infant and children’s products restricts them from cribs, mattresses, high chairs, playpens, strollers and many other items.
Connecticut Bans PFAS Chemicals in Food Packaging–sort of
The Connecticut law prohibits the sale or offering for sale of any food package or packaging component to which PFAS has been intentionally introduced during manufacture or distribution. Packages and packaging components for medical devices or equipment are exempted. The law also prohibits materials used to replace any chemical that is banned from packaging or packaging components from being used in an amount or way that creates a hazard at least equal to the hazard of the banned chemical. The ban becomes effective December 31, 2023.
Other State PFAS Legislation of Note
Michigan Residents with PFAS-Contaminated Private Wells to be Connected to Public Water System
Hundreds of residents that use private wells for drinking water near the Grand Rapids-area airport could be connected to a public water source by 2023 after the state set aside $5 million for the project. The homes in Cascade Township have wells in an area of PFAS-polluted groundwater due to firefighting foam used by Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Forty homes near the airport have levels of PFAS above state drinking water standards, and over 200 additional wells tested had detection of PFAS chemicals.
Michigan Introduces Bill to Ban PFAS (and BPA/BPS and Phthalates) from Food Packaging
Lawmakers in Michigan want to ban groups of toxic chemicals from being used in food packaging, including PFAS.
A bill introduced on July 1, 2021 would ban those chemicals beginning on January 1st, 2023. The proposed ban would impact three groups of chemicals.
- Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, are highly stable but also toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that can be used as flame retardants or waterproofing. The FDA has approved their use as a grease repellant in things like microwave popcorn bags, fast-food wrappers, and even dog food bags.
- Bisphenols, including BPA and its derivatives, are common ingredients in plastics including those used in beverage bottles and the linings in metal cans. The FDA says BPA is safe and approved for food containers, but has suspended that approval for certain products for babies.
- Phthalates are organic chemicals also used in plastics. There has been discussion among some health agencies about the possible health impact of these chemicals. The FDA mainly addresses their use in cosmetics, which was generally not considered to be harmful. The European Food Safety Authority does not consider exposure to phthalates in food to be a public health concern.
Click here to read about the proposed ban on these chemicals in food packaging in Michigan. The bill has been referred to the State House Committee on Agriculture.
Alaska Proposes Bills Limiting PFAS from Drinking Water, Fire Fighting Foam
The state legislature is considering a pair of bills that would limit the use of certain chemicals in firefighting foam, and to help communities whose drinking water has been contaminated. Senator Jesse Kiehl and Representative Sara Hannan have introduced bills to phase out the use of PFAS in firefighting foam, establish drinking water standards, and provide testing and clean water for communities affected by PFAS contamination.
Pennsylvania Bill Passes Senate: Limiting Pennsylvania Firefighters’ Exposure to Toxic Substances
Senate Bill 302: Known as the Fire Extinguishing Foam Control Act, after July 1, 2022, restricted the use of foam containing PFAS chemicals and, in consultation with the State Fire Department Director, evaluated the fire organization to the Pennsylvania Office for Emergency Management (PEMA). And instruct them to assist in the decision. How to move to the use of Class B fire extinguishing foams that do not contain PFAS chemicals. This law does not affect the continued use of fire extinguishing foam in emergencies.
See JD Supra’s chart of PFAS State-by-State Laws as of Aug 2021