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Dozens of States Seek to Regulate PFAS, Other Chemicals in 2022

Feb. 3, 2022, 2:00 PM

Nearly three dozen states will consider new laws and policies to tighten regulation on toxic chemicals in 2022, with PFAS still dominating the chemical agenda, according to a report Thursday from the Safer States advocacy group.

At least 10 states are expected to consider broad-scale regulation or restrictions of what public health and chemical safety advocates consider unnecessary uses of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in carpets and other products or require disclosure when the chemicals are used in products, the report said.

The states—including Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, and New Hampshire—are among those mulling the chemical restrictions as most U.S. states get their legislative sessions underway. Those moves continue to fill a vacuum left by the lack of wide-ranging congressional action to address PFAS.

The Safer States groups anticipates at least 32 states will consider 210 bills addressing toxic chemical policies this year, and passage of such legislation along with the prospect of even more bills has already led retailers to push for PFAS-free products including food packaging, said Sarah Doll, Safer States’ national director.

“2022 will be another groundbreaking year when it comes to addressing toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in state policies,” Doll said in a news release.

‘Energized Activity’

The report says to expect “energized activity” this year on PFAS, particularly in regulating or banning use in personal care products and textiles. Other expected state legislative action includes:

  • Policies to regulate PFAS including proposed restrictions of all uses except those considered unavoidable, requiring its use in products to be disclosed, or targeting specific products or uses from firefighting foam to textiles and cosmetics affecting everything from ski wax to fluid use in hydraulic fracturing to recover natural gas deposits. Nineteen states are expected to weigh in: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin;
  • At least four states—Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, and West Virginia—will contemplate restricting certain flame retardants in electronics, furniture, or children’s products which have been linked to human health concerns, including increased risk of thyroid and fertility problems but also harmful to wildlife;
  • At least 11 states are likely to consider eliminating PFAS from food and other packaging or cookware, including Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Maine, and New York. Such packaging can include nonstick coatings used in microwave popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers, which can migrate to the food in those containers; and
  • A handful of states are expected to consider restrictions on other chemical beyond PFAS, including efforts in New York to reduce exposures to cadmium, bisphenols, mercury, and phthalates in products used by children and pets.

VIDEO: What are “Forever Chemicals,” and how is the race to regulate and litigate them shaping up across the country?

Major Retailers Act

Over the last few years, 18 retailers selling food or food packaging—including Amazon.com Inc., McDonald’s Corp., Trader Joe’s, Wendy’s Co., and Whole Foods Market Inc.— announced they will reduce or eliminate PFAS in food packaging at more than 77,000 of their stores, the report said.

Others such as Rite Aid Corp., Sephora, Target Corp., and Walmart Inc. are working to eliminate chemicals like phthalates from products. The Home Depot and Lowe’s Co. Inc. have pledged to remove PFAS from all carpeting and rugs they sell, the report said.

“You’re seeing seeing momentum in the marketplace from companies like Target or McDonald’s moving out of chemicals of concern in certain product categories. There’s a relationship between some of the big policies being pushed and we’re seeing the market respond” to state actions, Doll said.

PFAS are a family of thousands of human-made chemicals used in nonstick consumer goods and firefighting foam. The foam has been used in defense installations and on military ships.

Some PFAS chemicals may cause adverse health effects, including developmental harm to fetuses, testicular and kidney cancer, liver tissue damage, immune system or thyroid effects, and changes in cholesterol, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

To see the latest updates on state-level PFAS regulations and legislation, check out Bloomberg Law’s PFAS State Activity Tracker here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergindustry.com