States will weigh more than 210 bills on toxic “forever chemicals” in 2022

Protecting people from exposure to toxic “forever chemicals” will be a top priority for new state regulations throughout the U.S. in 2022, according to a new analysis.

The analysis, published today by the Safer States network, found that at least 32 states will consider more than 210 bills related to PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances), making regulation of the chemicals one of the most prevalent issues in state policy making this year.

PFAS are a class of more than 9,000 compounds with similar properties. They’re used in everything from clothing and carpeting to nonstick pots and pans, furniture, cosmetics and personal care products, and food packaging containers. PFAS don’t readily break down once they’re in the environment, so they accumulate human bodies over time. Exposure to PFAS is linked to cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, asthma, and ulcerative colitis.

Related: Green beauty product testing finds more than 60% have PFAS indicators

Testing has found PFAS in everything from chocolate cake and leafy greens to yoga pants and sports bras, makeup, and drinking water throughout the country.

“State legislatures recognize the severity of the toxic PFAS crisis we’re facing and they’re taking action,” said Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States, in a statement. “States continue to lead the way in addressing these serious problems with urgency and innovative solutions.”

States step up on PFAS 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has promised to regulate PFAS more strictly at the federal level. Efforts to do so are underway, but many health advocates say the process is moving too slowly. In the meantime, states are taking action to protect residents from harmful exposures.

The 32 states considering policies related to PFAS in 2022 include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

According to the Safer States analysis:

  • At least 19 states will consider policies to regulate the use of PFAS, like restricting their use when it’s avoidable, requiring disclosures when the chemicals are found in consumer goods, or restricting their use in specific categories like cosmetics, textiles, and food packaging (AK, CA, CO, HI, IA, IL, MA, MD, MI, MN, NH, NC, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, and WI).
  • At least 17 states will consider policies related to PFAS cleanup, management, and accountability, such as designating the chemicals as hazardous, restricting their disposal, or allocating resources toward cleanup (AK, CA, FL, IL, IN, MA, ME, MD, MI, MN, NH, NC, OK, RI, VT, WA, and WI).
  • At least 19 states will consider legislation related to PFAS in drinking water, groundwater, or soil (AK, AZ, CT, FL, IA, IN, KY, ME, MN, NC, NH, NY, OH, RI, SC, VA, VT, WV, and WI).
  • At least three states will consider policies that ban PFAS in products labeled as recyclable (HI, MD, and NJ)
  • At least 6 states will consider policies that strengthen existing safe chemical policies for cosmetics or children’s products (CA, MA, MI, NY, VT, and WA)

“In Michigan, PFAS and other ‘forever chemicals’ have impacted my community for decades,” said Michigan State Senator Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) in a statement. “We’ve made significant strides in assessing the scope of the problem statewide and filtering PFAS out of drinking water.”

“However, there’s still so much to be done to stop contamination at its source, to require businesses to find alternatives to these harmful chemicals, and to create fair timeframes during which people who’ve been harmed can seek justice,” Brinks added. “We also need stronger laws that send a message to corporate polluters that profits never come before public health.”

PFAS in consumer goods 

The analysis comes on the heels of novel testing from and wellness community Mamavation that found evidence of PFAS in makeup, sports bras, and yoga pants and leggings.

And just last month the non-profit Toxic-Free Future found that almost three-quarters of 47 pieces of outdoor apparel, bedding, and kitchen linens that were marketed as stain- or water-resistant contain one or more PFAS.

“I’ve seen first-hand how the market is impacted by state policies on toxic chemicals,” said Mike Schade, director of Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program, in a statement. “It’s wise for retailers to get ahead of the curve and mitigate potential risks by taking action right away.”

Banner photo: “In Michigan, PFAS and other ‘forever chemicals’ have impacted my community for decades,” said Michigan State Senator Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), pictured here speaking about PFAS in drinking water in 2018. (Credit: Michigan House Democrats)