California passes new precedent-setting laws that require accurate product labeling and regulate PFAS “forever chemicals” as a class
October 05, 2021
PORTLAND, OR⸺California today passed new precedent-setting laws that require accurate labeling for products and regulate toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” as a class. The three bills signed today by Governor Gavin Newsom ensure truth in advertising through labeling requirements in products claiming to be recyclable; in compostable products; and in cookware, respectively. A fourth bill was also signed that regulates toxic chemicals in juvenile products. All four bills notably address toxic PFAS chemicals as a class, a longstanding recommendation by science experts, health care professionals, and advocates alike.
The four new bills include:
SB 343 brings “truth in labeling” to many plastic and packaging products. Manufacturers would no longer be allowed to put the “chasing arrows” recycling symbol on items that aren’t actually recyclable in the real world. Products that contain the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS also can’t be labeled as recyclable.
AB 1200 bans the use of PFAS chemicals in paper-based food packaging, requires disclosure of toxic substances in cookware, and ensures that a company isn't misleading consumers by claiming that cookware is free of a particular toxin when it contains a similar compound in the same chemical class.
AB 1201 reforms labeling for compostable products, ensuring that an item that claims to be compostable actually is so. The law will also cut chemical contamination of compost by banning PFAS from any products labelled as compostable.
AB-652 bans the entire class of PFAS from a wide array of “juvenile” products including booster seats, changing pads, infant carriers, nursing pillows and crib mattresses.
In response, Safer States, Californians Against Waste, National Stewardship Council, and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners stated the following:
“It’s simple: people don't want toxic chemicals in their products and they don't want to be lied to by manufacturers,” said Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “California is leading the nation by ensuring that companies are truthful in their advertising and that PFAS chemicals are addressed as a toxic class of chemicals. These policies will lead to safer products and healthier drinking water and communities. I expect other states to follow these precedent-setting policies and that we’ll see ripple effects across the country.”
“Californian’s want truth in labeling. Right now these ‘chasing arrow’ labels mean virtually nothing without a sheriff in town,” said Heidi Sanborn, executive director, National Stewardship Action Council. “A truly circular product must not include toxic PFAS chemicals known to damage DNA, cause cancer, or harm the reproductive system. Period.”
“Manufacturers can no longer hide behind deceptive advertising designed to mislead consumers and will now be held accountable when it comes to compostable products,” explained Nick Lapis, director of advocacy, Californians Against Waste. “Because it prohibits compostable products from using coatings containing toxic PFAS ‘forever chemicals,’ this new bill [AB 1201] sets the bar for defining compostable products and makes for an excellent model for the rest of the country.”
“We are thrilled with the passage of the California Safer Food Packaging and Cookware Act, an important step toward protecting people’s health and our environment from toxic PFAS chemicals. This historic new law will also give consumers the information they need to choose safer cook and bakeware” said Lisette van Vliet, senior policy advocate for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “Given the size of California's market, we're confident that together the cookware disclosure and the PFAS ban will benefit consumers everywhere as the US food packaging and cookware sectors transition to safer alternatives."
“This law puts California in the lead for protecting children’s health,” said Bill Allayaud, EWG’s director of California government affairs. “We applaud Gov. Newsom for giving parents confidence that the products they buy for their children are free from toxic PFAS. It’s heartening that for this legislation, the chemical industry joined consumer advocates to create a reasonable solution, as public awareness increases of the health risks posed by PFAS exposure.”
Chemical companies sell PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) for application to products such as paper and textiles as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments. A growing body of scientific research has found links between exposures to PFAS and a wide range of health problems including a weaker immune system, cancer, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. PFAS are often referred to as “forever” chemicals because they are not known to break down in the environment and can easily move through soil to drinking water. With remarkable persistence and mobility, PFAS have become global pollutants that threaten the health of people and wildlife. A recent peer-reviewed study by Toxic-Free Future found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples tested and that newer PFAS build up in people.
State governments are taking legislative and regulatory actions to phase out PFAS in products to prevent contamination in favor of safer alternatives. For example, laws in ME and WA have given state agencies authority to ban PFAS in a wide range of products. CT, ME, MN, NY, VT, and WA have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in food packaging. VT and ME adopted bans on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and aftermarket treatments and regulatory action is pending on these products and other home textiles (e.g. upholstery, bedding) in CA and WA. CA, CO, CT, IL, ME, NH, NY, VT and WA have put in place bans on the sale of firefighting foam containing PFAS.
Federal legislation to protect communities and ban PFAS in multiple product sectors has been or is expected to be introduced.
Retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to reduce or eliminate PFAS in key product sectors including textiles, according to the annual Retailer Report Card published by Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program.
NATIONAL STEWARDSHIP ACTION COUNCIL
National Stewardship Action Council (NSAC) was founded in 2015 to advocate for a circular economy in the U.S. NSAC is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that engages in education and advocacy work for producers to take responsibility for product design, labeling and end-of-life management. Visit us at www.nsaction.us.
CALIFORNIANS AGAINST WASTE
The mission of Californians Against Waste is to conserve resources, prevent pollution and protect California’s environment through the development, promotion, and implementation of waste reduction and recycling policies and programs. Founded in 1977, Californians Against Waste is a non-profit environmental research and advocacy organization that identifies, develops, promotes and monitors policy solutions to pollution and conservation problems posing a threat to public health and the environment. Visit us at www.cawrecycles.org.
BREAST CANCER PREVENTION PARTNERS
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) is the leading national science-based, policy and advocacy organization focused on preventing breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation. Through scientific translation, education, legislative advocacy and corporate accountability campaigns, BCPP occupies a unique niche at the nexus of environmental health, women’s health and breast cancer prevention. Visit us at www.bcpp.org and follow us on Twitter @BCPPartners.
ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit us at www.ewg.org.
Safer States is a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states across the country that share a bold and urgent vision to protect people and communities from toxic chemical threats. By harnessing place-based power, Safer States creates innovative solutions that promote safer alternatives and helps prevent harm to people and the environment caused by dangerous chemicals. Working directly with state-based advocacy organizations, Safer States provides support and strategic guidance to advocates as well as a platform for national collaboration and coordination. www.saferstates.org
Stephanie Stohler, firstname.lastname@example.org
“California is leading the nation by ensuring that companies are truthful in their advertising and that PFAS chemicals are addressed as a toxic class of chemicals. These policies will lead to safer products and healthier drinking water and communities. I expect other states to follow these precedent-setting policies and that we’ll see ripple effects across the country.”
- Sarah Doll, National Director of Safer States