New law needed to speed up PFAS action in Washington

New law needed to speed up PFAS action in Washington

Washington State has been a leader in preventing PFAS pollution, banning these harmful chemicals in product categories to address contamination of drinking water. But with the continued use of these persistent and toxic chemicals in major products like apparel, our work in Washington is not done.

In 2018, Washington was the first state to ban per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging and fire extinguishing foam, recognizing the urgency of the danger posed by these persistent, mobile and toxic chemicals. Because of their tenacity and mobility, PFAS have contaminated drinking water in Washington and elsewhere in the U.S. Their presence in firefighting foam and gear is also a concern for firefighters’ health, leading to some cancers. Suffer from higher rates- job exposure to harmful chemicals.

We celebrated in 2019, when the state legislature passed the Safer Products for Washington into law, giving the Department of Ecology the authority to ban PFAS in a wide range of consumer products. With this authorization the agency plans to restrict PFAS in carpets, rugs, upholstery and aftermarket waterproofing treatments, identifying safer alternatives currently available. This is an important step that will address the important uses of PFAS.

Unfortunately, despite these major actions, the massive use of PFAS continues and continues to pollute our homes, schools, workplaces and bodies. In 2021 Toxic-Free Future teamed up with the University of Washington and Indiana University to accelerate action to publish peer-reviewed research finding widespread contamination of breast milk with PFAS-driving home and PFAS in other areas. Published the urgent need to wean out of the products. These chemicals are still used in rain gear (such as Gortex®-treated) and other apparel, floor treatments and cosmetics.

A study of 50 Washington mothers found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples. Detection of PFAS includes new compounds currently in heavy use, and the study found that the detection of these chemicals is doubling every four years.

The legislature has an opportunity to reverse these trends by extending a timeline for ecology to address more PFAS-containing products over the next three years. We know from previous work with other chemicals that build up in our bodies and the environment, such as lead, PCBs and PBDEs, that stopping them at the source reduces levels in our bodies. However, without the law changing, Ecology will not start considering additional action on PFAS until 2025 and we will wait until 2030 for the rules to take effect. It’s too long to wait and doesn’t make sense, especially if safer alternatives exist.

Toxic-Free Future is privileged to work with Representative Liz Berry (D-Seattle) to reform the Safer Products for Washington Law to promptly eliminate PFAS in additional key products.

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