2021 Analysis of Upcoming State Legislation on Toxic Chemicals

February 03, 2021

Sarah Doll

 

Safer States analyzed anticipated state-level policies on toxic chemical regulation, finding that at least 27 states will consider policies in 2021. Safer States anticipates that at least 180 bills will be under consideration in 2021 and efforts to combat toxic PFAS chemicals will continue to be the most prevalent issue. 

The 180 estimated policies is a conservative estimate based on bills that have been identified, as well as considerations of multiple versions of bills, and other policies that are in development but not yet clear. 

The states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington.

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Safer State’s analysis of legislation that will be introduced across the country has found that regulation of PFAS chemicals is the focus of the majority of policies being proposed. PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) are a class of more than 5000 chemicals used in everything from cookware, food packaging, and carpets to outdoor apparel and firefighting foams. PFAS are also widely used in industrial processes and then discharged into waterways. The director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health called PFAS “one of the most seminal public health challenges of the coming decades.” 

PFAS have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, hormone disruption, immune suppression, and reproductive problems. Scientists are concerned about how exposure to PFAS and other toxic chemicals can worsen the impacts of Covid-19. PFAS are sometimes called “forever chemicals” since they do not easily break down in the environment and some forms will be with us forever. PFAS travel far distances, with a recent study finding 60 tons of PFAS in the Arctic Ocean. Nearly every American has PFAS in their body: they are found in blood, breast milk, and even umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. For more information on PFAS, visit Safer States’ PFAS Action Guide: www.pfasaction.org

Below is an overview of the policies that have been or that we anticipate being introduced in legislatures around the country to address the serious threat of PFAS and other toxic chemicals. Some of the policies listed below are part of a single bill: 

Restricting PFAS in products: 

  • At least 11 states will consider policies to eliminate PFAS from food packaging including AK, AZ, CT, IA, MD, MI, MN, OR, RI, VA, VT (several states are aiming to eliminate additional chemicals of concern). PFAS are used in nonstick coatings on food packaging materials like microwave popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers. The chemicals don’t always stay in the food packaging, but instead can move into the food where we may be exposed when we eat. Studies also show that when PFAS-coated food packaging is composted or landfilled, the chemicals can migrate into the environment.

  • At least 7 states will introduce legislation to eliminate PFAS from firefighting foam, including bans, restrictions, and mandatory take-back programs: AK, CT, MA, ME, MD, MI, VT. Firefighting foam is a major source of PFAS drinking water contamination. In the last three years, multiple states have passed bans on PFAS in firefighting foams while both the military and the FAA have been directed by Congress to stop using PFAS-based firefighting foams. 

  • At least 6 states will be considering bills to eliminate PFAS from textiles such as carpets, rugs, upholstery, and aftermarket textile treatments: AK, MA, MD, ME, NY, VT. Both California and Washington state have identified these products as significant sources of human and ecological exposures to PFAS and are working on identifying safer alternatives through regulatory processes. Other states are now attempting to address these same issues through legislation.

  • Multiple states will be considering restrictions and/or disclosure requirements for PFAS in other consumer products such as ski wax (VT), children’s products (CA), and cookware (MA, CA). 

Restrict PFAS in Broader scale PFAS efforts 

  • Connecticut and Maine are moving to phase out all uses of PFAS in consumer products, beginning with those where there are readily available substitutes.

  • Washington is aiming to secure $3.5 million to implement Chemical Action Plans on PFAS and other chemicals of concern. 

  • Minnesota will be considering creating a new state-level PFAS task force to address existing and potential future contamination. Several states, including CT, ME, MI, PA, and WI have already launched interagency PFAS task forces to create and implement state-specific action plans to address widespread pollution issues. 

PFAS Management and Accountability 

  • At least 5 states will consider policies for medical monitoring, strict liability and/or extending the statute of limitations for PFAS lawsuits: IN, MD, ME, MI, VT. Millions of Americans are dealing with PFAS contaminated drinking and states are spending millions of dollars to clean up pollution. Responding to this situation, States are taking action to hold polluters accountable. Indiana has proposed offering veterans to have their blood tested for PFAS, while Maine is working to extend the statute of limitations so farmers and others who have had their land pollution by PFAS are able to seek legal remedy even though the contamination took place years earlier. 

  • At least 4 states will consider restricting PFAS disposal and/or ban incinerationCT, IL, MD, OK. Since PFAS chemicals don’t break down in the environment, PFAS disposal poses huge challenges. Several states are moving to regulate how PFAS waste is disposed of, and some are considering banning its incineration. 

  • At least 2 states will be considering legislation to officially designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous under state law: ME, MN. Such action can lead to broader and more effective cleanup and pollution prevention efforts. 

  • New Hampshire legislation would require a polluter to pay for PFAS cleanup. The bill would require Saint Gobain Performance Plastics to pay for the cleanup of water in certain wells and water systems that it contaminated in the state.

PFAS and Water 

  • At least 11 states will consider legislation to address PFAS in drinking water: AZ, CT, IN, ME, MI, NJ, NY, NH, RI, SC, VT. PFAS contamination has been found in drinking water or groundwater in almost 1,400 sites in 49 states, and this is likely just the tip of the iceberg of the PFAS problem when it comes to water. 

  • At least 4 states will consider legislation to address PFAS in surface water and/or groundwater: CO, NC, RI, VT. Surface water and groundwater are connected, and both are important sources of current and future drinking water for US residents. For these reasons, it is important that states are beginning to work to address PFAS pollution in all of their waters. 

  • At least 5 state's legislation will identify and or restrict PFAS in sludge/biosolids including ME, MD, MI, MN and VTBecause PFAS doesn’t break down and pollution sources are highly diffuse, the chemicals end up in the sludge/biosolids that are left over after water treatment. When this sludge is spread on farmland, it can contaminate the soil. This practice is highly problematic and some states are beginning to take action to address it.  

  • At least 7 state’s legislation will require testing and/or disclosure of PFAS in water: CA, CO, IA, ME, NJ, RI, VA. The true scope of PFAS contamination is unknown since testing is still somewhat limited. Many states are working to increase testing in order to better document the extent of their pollution problems.  

Toxic Flame Retardants, Cosmetics, and More

  • At least 7 states will consider restricting toxic flame retardants in furniture, children’s products, and/or electronics: AK, DE, GA, IA, NJ, NY, VA. Flame retardants are a class of chemicals added to furniture, electronics, and building materials intended to help prevent fires.  Despite the claims of the chemical industry, many of them are unnecessary, don’t work well, and can be harmful. Flame retardants have been shown to cause neurological damage, hormone disruption, and cancer. One of the biggest dangers of some flame retardants is that they bioaccumulate in humans, causing long-term chronic health problems as bodies contain higher and higher levels of these toxic chemicals. 

  • At least 5 states will be considering restrictions or requiring disclosure on chemicals of concern in cosmeticsMA, MD, MI, NJ, NY. There are many chemicals of concern in cosmetics including formaldehyde, parabens, PFAS, phthalates, mercury among others. There is growing concern about impacts especially on women of color

  • Multiple states are considering restrictions on chemicals of concern such as lead, mercury, BPA, cadmium, formaldehyde, and/or more in specific product types: pet products (NY), paint (OR), receipt paper (NJ, MA), children’s products (NJ, NY).  And Oregon will be considering expansion of its Kid Safe Product Act, giving the agency more authority to regulate chemicals of concern.

2021 Anticipated Policy  

 

 

2021 State PFAS PolicyState Policy Addressing PFAS in Food Packaging

2021 Anticipated Policy2
2021 Anticipated Policy