State agencies can now ban major sources of PFAS and other toxic pollution
(Olympia, WA) — Washington Governor Jay Inslee will today sign precedent-setting legislation protecting people and orcas from toxic chemical pollution. After the law is signed, Washington will have the nation’s strongest policy regulating toxic chemicals in products, a major source of harmful chemicals in our homes and environment. The new law prioritizes five chemical classes for action: PFAS, organohalogen flame retardants, phthalates, alkylphenol ethoxylates and bisphenols, and PCBs.
The Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act (SB 5135) gives state agencies the authority to ban chemicals and require disclosure of harmful chemicals in a wide range of products from carpets and personal care products to electronics and building materials. The law addresses classes of chemicals that pose a health threat to sensitive populations, like pregnant women and children, and sensitive species like the endangered southern resident orcas and their prey, Chinook salmon.
“This landmark legislation gives Washington state agencies the authority they need to turn off the tap on toxic pollution that comes from products, whether it’s persistent PFAS in carpet or toxic flame retardants in televisions,” said Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director of Toxic-Free Future. “Washington state is leading the nation with this new law that tackles classes of chemicals, like PFAS, ending the chemical by chemical approach that does not solve the problem.”
Scientists have documented that chemicals escape out of products into dust and air in our homes, travel through wastewater, and pollute the environment. This pollution from products is largely unregulated and is why levels of some contaminants, such as plasticizing chemicals called phthalates, continue to contaminate Puget Sound despite years of cleanup. Costs of cleanup and health impacts are significant for governments, taxpayers and businesses.
Erika Schreder, Toxic-Free Future’s Science Director said, “Our own studies show that products are a significant source of pollution both in our homes and to waterways. When manufacturers put harmful chemicals in products like furniture, TVs, and flooring, the chemicals leach out and wind up in our homes, our bodies, and Puget Sound. By stopping the use of harmful chemicals in consumer products, we can prevent pollution and that’s much easier than cleaning it up.”
Valeriano added, “We want to thank Governor Inslee and the Washington State Legislature for standing up to chemical industry opposition and protecting the health of kids and orcas. We especially want to thank the sponsors of this groundbreaking legislation, Senator Rolfes and Representative Doglio, and the leaders in the House and Senate who helped achieve its passage including Representative Fitzgibbon, Speaker Chopp, Majority Leader Billig and Senator Carlyle.”
“We urge the Departments of Ecology and Health to move swiftly to implement this new law and take action on PFAS chemicals in carpet and textiles and organohalogen flame retardants in televisions. The state has studied these chemicals long enough, as part of their existing toxics reduction program, and now it’s time for action,” Valeriano concluded.
More information on the Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act is available at https://toxicfreefuture.org/pollution-prevention-act.
What others are saying about the Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act
Dr. Lora Shahine, reproductive endocrinologist and Director of the Center for Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at Pacific NW Fertility in Seattle states, “I have seen evidence in my practice and in the medical research that exposure to known toxics is having a negative impact on fertility and pregnancy outcomes. I am so thrilled and relieved that our state agencies now have the tools they need to minimize exposures to hormone-disrupting and toxic chemicals.”
“Flooring, adhesives, wiring, stain repellents, furniture, laminate countertops, sealants and paint are just a few of the common building materials that can contain harmful chemicals,” said architect Chris Hellstern, AIA with The Miller Hull Partnership. “This law will better protect the health of all people and move the market towards safer materials.”
AJ Johnson, Legislative Liaison for the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters said, “We applaud Governor Inslee for signing the Pollution Prevention for our Future Act because it prioritizes action on some of the most dangerous chemicals that can be contributing to cancer in the fire service.”
Sarah Doll, National Director of Safer States said, “Washington State is now leading the nation in creating protections for its citizens and setting the stage to reduce both toxic exposures and the costs to taxpayers for cleanups. Other states will certainly be inspired to adopt similar policies.”
“Instead of protecting our families and the environment from toxic pollutants like PFAS, the Trump EPA is dragging its feet and pursuing policies that will ultimately mean more toxic chemicals in the products we use, in our bodies, and in the environment. The federal government should follow the lead of states like Washington that recognize the need for action to prevent further toxic harms to public health and the environment,” said Liz Hitchcock, Acting Director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families.
Lindsay Dahl, Senior Vice President of Social Mission at Beautycounter said, “Beautycounter believes that it is possible to formulate high performing products that do not compromise safety. The passage of SB 5135 provides an important incentive for companies to explore alternatives to the dangerous classes of chemicals targeted for review and we applaud Governor Inslee for signing this consumer health protective bill.”
Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director at Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, said, “This new law should be a wake-up call for the biggest retailers in the United States. It can help businesses identify priority chemicals for action. Large retailers should get out in front of this law and prioritize these five classes of toxic chemicals for reduction and elimination.”
Cheri Peele, Senior Research Associate at Clean Production Action said, “The use of chemicals of concern in products is still far too common, posing serious long-term risk to human health and the environment. The Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act will help move the market toward safer chemicals in products, which reduces business liability.”