Toxic flame retardants and chemical disclosure top toxic chemical issues for states

(Portland, OR) – In an effort to fill regulatory gaps left by the federal government, states are stepping up to protect public health from harmful chemicals, according to an analysis by Safer States. The analysis found that at least 28 states will consider more than 100 policies to require companies to disclose what is in their products as well as limit exposures to toxic chemicals, including bans on PFAS in food packaging and firefighting foam as well as bans on toxic flame retardants. The analysis, including a searchable database, is available online at saferstates.com/bill-tracker.

With the Trump EPA rolling back environmental protections, states are taking the lead to protect their residents from harmful chemicals, particularly PFAS chemicals. Last year, the state of Washington passed restrictions on PFAS in food packaging and firefighting foam and this year, at least 13 states are considering similar legislation. These actions come in the wake of serious failures by the EPA to protect drinking water or provide meaningful action that would warn communities about exposure or provide adequate funding for cleanup.

“As the Federal EPA falters and drags its feet, states are on the front line of protecting citizens from toxic chemicals by enacting strong policies” said Sarah Doll, National Director of Safer States. “Year after year, state policies grounded in cutting-edge science push the regulatory bar higher and create lasting, life-improving changes to the lives of people across the United States.”

The trend to eliminate flame retardants continues in this session with several states introducing measures to eliminate these harmful chemicals from furniture, children’s products, and mattresses, harmonizing with policy recently adopted in California. Others are focusing their attention on eliminating toxic flame retardants from electronics a year after the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended a similar ban and advised manufacturers find safer alternatives.

“Over half of firefighter line-of-duty deaths come from job-related cancers – not burns, smoke inhalation, or heart attacks. These high cancer rates are likely linked to firefighter exposure to ineffective, but highly toxic flame retardant chemicals,” according to Senator John Marty (MN). “Consequently Minnesota banned several of these dangerous chemicals and we are now moving to ban the use of any of these toxic chemicals in upholstered furniture, in carpeting and textiles, and in children’s products.”

“I’m proud that we began eliminating these toxic chemicals several years ago, and hope that Minnesota and other states can finish the job now,” Sen. Marty said.

“People in the states are tired of waiting for the federal government to do the right thing. There are toxic chemicals in our water, in our air and in our homes and we need solutions now.” Said Kathy Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York.  “Here in New York, we are grateful that our representatives are taking the lead to both require companies tell us what is in products and limit exposure to chemicals that are making communities sick.”

According to Safer State’s analysis, here are some of the policies states will consider in 2019: 

  • Banning PFAS in food packaging: At least 8 states will consider policy to eliminate or reduce PFASs in food packaging. PFASs are industrial chemicals used in nonstick coatings on food packaging like microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers. They have been shown to cause cancer and organ damage as well as interfere with normal development and limit the efficacy of vaccines. The chemicals don’t stay in the food packaging, but instead move into the food where we are exposed when we eat. Studies also show that when PFAS-coated food packaging is composted or landfilled, the chemicals get into the environment. States considering bans include: CT, MA, ME, MN, NJ, NY, RI, VT.
  • Banning PFAS in firefighting foam: At least 9 states will consider policy to ban the use of PFAS in firefighting foam. Washington State passed a ban on PFAS in foam last year and the Federal Aviation Administration has been directed to rewrite regulations to allow for PFAS-free foams at airports. Firefighters have been calling on states and regulators to eliminate all PFAS from foams and are working hand-in-hand with environmental advocates on this issue. States considering bans are AK, CT, MI, MN, NH, NY, RI, VA, VT.
  • Addressing PFAS in drinking water: Beyond regulating PFAS in firefighting foam at least 7 states will consider policy to limit levels of PFAS in drinking water, as well as fund cleanup of contaminated drinking water, including medical monitoring and testing. Millions of Americans are dealing with drinking water contaminated with PFAS chemicals. States considering actions include AK, MI, NH, NJ, NY, VT, WA. 
  • Banning flame retardants from furniture, kids products, mattresses and electronics: At least 16 states will consider policy to eliminate toxic flame retardants from residential furniture, children’s products, and mattresses. A few states will move to regulate these harmful chemicals in electronics. States considering restrictions include: AK, AZ, CT, DE, IN, MA, MD, MN, MS, NH, NJ, NY, TN, VA, WA, WV.
  • Identification and disclosure of toxic chemicals: At least 11 states will consider policy to identify chemicals of concern and/or require makers of consumer products to disclose their use of these chemicals. State disclosure laws help provide policymakers with an understanding of how people are exposed to chemicals from products, with particular recognition of greater exposures among low-income communities and communities of color. These laws also inform consumers about their buying choices and help manufacturers identify chemicals to eliminate in their products. Disclosure bills being considered will address various product sectors including personal care products and fragrances, electronics, and disclosure of toxics in products designed for pregnant women and/or children. States considering actions include: AK, CA, CT, MA, MS, NY, OR, RI, VA, VT, WA.

Since 2003, more than 35 states have adopted 182 policies that establish state chemicals programs, identify, limit or ban the use of harmful chemicals in products including baby bottles, furniture, electronics, toys, cosmetics and cleaning products.

The complete analysis is available online at saferstates.org/bill-tracker.