Thursday, 30 Nov 2023

Toxic trail of pollution: states step up to curb the use of forever chemicals

Toxic trail of pollution: states step up to curb the use of forever chemicals


Toxic trail of pollution: states step up to curb the use of forever chemicals

Few chemicals have attracted as intense public and regulatory scrutiny as PFAS, but even as the highly toxic and ubiquitous compounds' dangers come into sharper focus, industry influence has crippled congressional attempts to pass meaningful consumer protections.

Federal bills designed to address some of the most significant sources of exposure - food packaging, cosmetics, personal care products, clothing, textiles, cookware and firefighting foam - have all failed in recent sessions.

However, a patchwork of state laws enacted over the last three years is generating fresh hope by prohibiting the use of PFAS in those and other uses. These laws - mostly passed in Democratic-controlled states - are quietly forcing many companies to phase out the chemicals as they become illegal to use in consumer goods in some of the nation's largest economies.

"We've seen some corporate leadership on PFAS, but the actual state policies that say 'No, you have to do this' - those are great incentivizers," said Sarah Doll, director of Safer States, which advocates for and tracks restrictions on toxic chemicals at the state level.

PFAS are a class of about 15,000 chemicals often used to make thousands of consumer products across dozens of industries resist water, stains and heat. The chemicals are ubiquitous, and linked at low levels of exposure to cancer, thyroid disease, kidney dysfunction, birth defects, autoimmune disease and other serious health problems.

Though the Biden administration is devoting significant resources to limiting and cleaning up environmental PFAS pollution, it has no coherent strategy to address the chemicals' use in consumer goods, and states have filled that void. Among those are laws banning their use in:

Maine has gone several steps further with a ban on all non-essential uses of PFAS, and the momentum continues this session in 33 states where legislation has been introduced. Vermont's senate unanimously approved a ban on the chemicals in cosmetics, textiles and artificial turf.

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