Bans on dangerous chemicals in plastics that are put in electronics, vinyl flooring, and beverage liners among first-in-nation policies proposed in Washington state

Public hearing held today on proposed new rules, as part of Safer Products for Washington law

Health advocates, scientists, community members, and firefighters testify that bans are urgently needed to protect health, water, and wildlife

Olympia, WA—Today, Washington State Department of Ecology held a public hearing on proposed new rules that would ban dangerous chemicals in plastics and other materials—including PFAS, phthalates, flame retardants, and bisphenols—that are put in electronics, vinyl flooring, and beverage packaging, among other products. If enacted, Washington would become the first state in the nation to have these policies. The rules are being proposed under the Safer Products for Washington law, which was passed in 2019 to protect vulnerable populations and species such as pregnant women, babies, workers, highly impacted communities, salmon, and orcas.

A detailed chart of the proposed restrictions and reporting can be found here.

Health advocates, scientists, community members, and firefighters testified at today’s public hearing urging swift adoption of the rules.

The following statements were made:

Cheri Peele, senior project manager for Toxic-Free Future:

“Strong regulatory actions are needed to protect vulnerable populations and vulnerable species, from pregnant women and children to salmon and orcas. Protecting the most vulnerable, including highly impacted communities, is core to the Safer Products for Washington Law—and the only solution is prevention. Especially for persistent chemicals, limits need to be as close to zero as possible. All organohalogens need to be banned to achieve a circular economy. Products with hazardous organohalogens can’t be recycled, because they wind up in other products from toys to kitchen utensils.”

AJ Johnson, legislative liaison, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters (WSCFF):

“The use of organohalogens in flame retardants threatens the health of firefighters. Cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters. And we have much higher rates of cancer than the general population. Substituting safer alternatives or organohalogen flame retardants is pure common sense and reduces unnecessary exposure to chemicals that can cause a range of health effects including cancer.”

Dr. Mark Rossi, executive director, Clean Production Action:

“Treating organohalogens as a class is a widespread practice in the electronics industry. There are clearly safer alternatives to these flame retardants in these applications that meet fire safety standards.”

Brandi Hyatt, Yakima, WA:

“My husband, two small children and I have been unknowingly exposed to high levels of PFAS chemicals through our drinking water. I have a disease that exposure to forever chemicals is linked to. If I had been given a choice, if the knowledge had been shared, if people that knew about PFAS chemicals before me had informed me, I would have NEVER knowingly exposed the health and safety of myself and family. We the people have a right to say NO to forever chemicals. Every exposure pathway should be eliminated whether it be water, cookware, food packaging,  textiles, firefighting foam…Please protect our Earth and bodies. Moving forward with this rule will create positive change. Pursue PFAS free.”

Dr. Gillian Miller, senior scientist, Ecology Center:

“BPA is a well-studied reproductive toxicant associated with fertility effects and low birth weights… For these reasons, BPA is banned from receipt paper in the European Union and BPS and other bisphenols are targeted for regulatory action. Better options are readily available. Companies can avoid automatically printing receipts and offer an electronic receipt option. For receipts that do get printed, several non-bisphenol drop-in replacements are available.”

Dr. Courtney Carignan, assistant professor, Michigan State University:

“I cannot overstate what a serious problem widespread use of halogenated flame retardants and PFAS have created. Among the most highly exposed include infants, young children, workers including fire fighters and construction workers, and indigenous populations. We are all initially exposed in the womb, then via breast milk and in our homes through our products. We are all secondarily exposed through their ubiquitous presence in our outdoor environment where they migrate and accumulate in our foods – crops, livestock, fish and seafood. PFAS additionally travel with the water cycle into our drinking water, aquaculture, and agriculture. Widespread exposure and health effects of phthalates, phenols, halogenated flame retardants and PFAS are well documented and it’s time to take decisive action. I support the proposed rule and recommend its full adoption.”

BACKGROUND ON SAFER PRODUCTS FOR WASHINGTON

Washington State passed precedent-setting legislation, the Safer Products for Washington Act in 2019. The law directs Washington state agencies to identify the products that are significant sources of high-priority chemicals and provides authority to take action to reduce them. Washington’s Department of Ecology can ban or require disclosure of harmful chemicals in a wide range of products—from plastics and personal care products to electronics and building materials. It can also require companies to provide full ingredient information in products in order to make regulatory determinations under the law.

A growing body of science and Toxic-Free Future’s own research have documented that chemicals escape out of products into dust and air in our homes, travel through wastewater, and pollute homes, waters, the food supply, and even us. A 2019 scientific study led by Toxic-Free Future found organohalogen flame retardants in 100% of TVs tested, which were purchased from Best Buy and Amazon. In 2022, TFF released a study that found PFAS in most products labeled stain- and water-resistant, with 72% testing positive for PFAS. A 2021 peer-reviewed study led by scientists at Toxic-Free Future (TFF), the University of Washington, and Indiana University found PFAS in 100% of breast milk samples tested and that detections of PFAS currently used in products are doubling every four years.

Costs of cleanup and health impacts due to these chemicals such as the toxic “forever chemicals” PFAS are significant for governments, taxpayers and businesses.

The findings of safer alternatives, as required by the Washington state law, uses hazard-based tools such as GreenScreen and ChemFORWARD, which are also helping manufacturers and retailers transition to safer chemicals and materials.

Retailers and brands are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to eliminate hazardous chemicals such as PFAS in key product sectors, according to the annual Retailer Report Card. Many leading retailers have already adopted voluntary commitments to reduce and eliminate the very same chemicals that Ecology is proposing to restrict in the same product categories. Last year, Best Buy announced display enclosures and stands of all newly designed models of Best Buy’s Exclusive Brand televisions will no longer contain toxic organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs). Other leading consumer electronic brands such as Samsung, LG Electronics, and SONY have also taken action to reduce the use of OFRs in the enclosures of televisions they sell.

TOXIC-FREE FUTURE

Toxic-Free Future (TFF) is a national leader in environmental health research and advocacy. Through the power of science, education, and activism, Toxic-Free Future drives strong laws and corporate responsibility that protects the health of all people and the planet.

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MEDIA CONTACT

Stephanie Stohler

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