Toxic PFAS regulation and clean-up driving the majority of more than 180 expected policies for this year
(Lansing, MI)—Safer States today released its annual analysis of anticipated state-level policies on toxic chemical regulation, finding that at least 27 states will consider policies in 2021. Safer States anticipates that at least 180 bills will be under consideration in 2021 and efforts to combat toxic PFAS chemicals will continue to be the most prevalent issue. Michigan has drawn national attention for PFAS contamination both because it has high levels of PFAS contamination linked to its heavily industrialized history, and because it has taken some steps to clean up legacy PFAS contamination.
“2021 will be another year when states will take the lead in winning protections from toxic chemicals and incentives for safe alternatives,” explains Safer States National Director Sarah Doll. Policies introduced this year build on policies adopted in 2020 that restricted the entire class of PFAS chemicals in food packaging and firefighting foam, addressed PFAS water contamination, and restricted toxic flame retardants in furniture and children's products. Safer States also finds that policies in 2021 will restrict PFAS in textiles and other consumer products, restrict toxic flame retardants in electronics, and require companies to disclose product ingredients. Policymakers are also expected to take action on eliminating toxic chemicals in cosmetics this year.
These chemicals are slowly and silently accumulating in our bodies and many people are completely unaware of the harm being done. I am aware of the harm being done--after drinking PFAS contaminated water for years I have some of the highest levels of PFAS ever detected in the human body, and yes, there are health effects. Finally, a number of states, including Michigan, are now focused on this crisis and that will help sound the alarm.
— Sandy Wynn-Stelt, a Michigander exposed to PFAS in her well water
Safer States’ analysis finds at least 27 states will consider more than 180 policies, including Michigan.
“These chemicals are slowly and silently accumulating in our bodies and many people are completely unaware of the harm being done. I am aware of the harm being done--after drinking PFAS contaminated water for years I have some of the highest levels of PFAS ever detected in the human body, and yes, there are health effects. Finally, a number of states, including Michigan, are now focused on this crisis and that will help sound the alarm,” said Sandy Wynn-Stelt, a Michigander exposed to PFAS in her well water. “PFAS threaten the health and well-being of our communities and environment, and I hope this spurs urgency for states like mine to continue to do even more. No one should go through what me and my family have gone through”
Safer States’ analysis finds that PFAS regulation and clean-up is the focus of the majority of expected policies for 2021. “Toxic PFAS pollution continues to harm millions of people in hundreds of communities nationwide,” explains Michigan State Representative Sue Allor (R-106). “In Michigan, we're taking deliberate steps to protect our constituents by addressing drinking water contamination and stopping the use of these dangerous chemicals.”
“Michigan is joining other states at the forefront of policy making, to keep people healthy and safe. This is critical,” said Rebecca Meuninck, Deputy Director of The Ecology Center. “The health and well-being of our communities and environment is a top priority. Long-term harm caused by toxic chemicals affects people and our planet — increasing the urgency for states to act. We have taken some positive steps forward in Michigan, and we have more work to do.”
“While we expect the Biden administration to fulfill its promises to take on toxic chemicals like PFAS, state leadership remains critical to protect communities and drive action to get these toxic chemicals out of our homes and workplaces,” said Tony Spaniola, a homeowner in Oscoda affected by PFAS contamination coming from the Wurtsmith Air Force base. He continued, “In Oscoda we have been demanding for years that the Air Force take responsibility for the legacy of toxic contamination that has devastated our community. While we keep fighting for proper remediation, state level regulations will help get these dangerous chemicals off the market so that we can keep them out of our water, our food, and our bodies”
“State-level policies on toxic chemicals greatly impact the market,” explains Mind the Store Campaign Director Mike Schade. “As toxic chemical policies continue to gain traction in more states, retailers must take note. Retailers can mitigate regulatory risks and get ahead of the curve by taking action now. This results in a win for all of us because healthier products and processes are then put into practice.” Over the past two years, 12 major grocery and restaurant chains including McDonald’s, Kroger, and Amazon.com have publicly announced steps to reduce or eliminate certain toxic chemicals in food packaging at their more than 55,000 stores. Other retailers like buybuy BABY, Staples, and Target are working to eliminate chemicals like phthalates and flame retardants from their products, while The Home Depot and Lowes recently committed to removing PFAS from all carpeting and rugs sold in their stores.
Additional highlights for 2021 state policies on toxics include:
- PFAS in products: At least 18 states are anticipated to introduce legislation to restrict PFAS in products including policies to restrict PFAS in food packaging, firefighting foam, and textiles, like carpets and rugs. All of these are major uses of PFAS associated with exposures and adding to contamination problems and safer alternatives are available. A few states will be going beyond these product categories to eliminate additional uses or securing resources to support action. These states include AK, AZ, CA, CT, IA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, NY, NC, OR, RI, TX, VT, VA, WA.
- PFAS clean-up and accountability: At least ten states are expected to introduce legislation that addresses the existing PFAS crisis that communities are facing today including policies that require medical monitoring, strict liability, extending the statute of limitations for PFAS lawsuits, restricting PFAS disposal and/or banning incineration, designating PFAS as hazardous, and requiring the polluter to pay for PFAS clean-up. These states include CT, IL, IN, MD, ME, MI, MN, NH, OK, VT.
- PFAS in water: At least 19 states are anticipated to introduce legislation to restrict PFAS in water including policies on drinking water, surface water and/or groundwater, sludge/biosolids, as well as testing and/or disclosure of PFAS in water. These states include AZ, CA, CO, CT, IA, IN, MD, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NY, RI, SC, TX, VA, VT.
- Toxics in cosmetics: At least five states are anticipated to introduce legislation to restrict or require disclosure of chemicals of concern in cosmetics. These states include MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY.
- Toxic flame retardants: At least seven states are expected to consider restricting toxic flame retardants in furniture, children’s products, and/or electronics. These states include AK, DE, GA, IA, NJ, NY, VA.
- Lead, mercury, BPA, cadmium, formaldehyde, phthalates and other chemicals of concern: Several states are anticipated to consider restrictions on specific chemicals of concern in items like pet products (NY), receipt paper (MA, NJ), and children’s products (NJ, NY). Oregon will consider the expansion of its Kid Safe Product Act, giving the agency more authority to regulate chemicals of concern.
For more information, visit the full Safer States analysis of anticipated 2021 state policies.
Safer States is a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states across the country that share a bold and urgent vision to protect people and communities from toxic chemical threats. By harnessing place-based power, Safer States helps prevent harm to people and the environment caused by dangerous chemicals and creates innovative solutions that promote safer alternatives. Working directly with state-based advocacy organizations, Safer States provides support and strategic guidance to advocates as well as a platform for national collaboration and coordination.
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