A bill to end the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) “forever” chemicals in new fabrics and textiles in California was passed by the Assembly Tuesday.
Assembly Bill 1817, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would prohibit any person from manufacturing, distributing, selling, or offering for sale in the state any new, not previously owned, textile articles that contain regulated PFAS and requires a manufacturer to use the least toxic alternative when removing regulated PFAS in textile articles to comply with the bill. AB 1817, also known as The Safer Clothes and Textiles Act, would also require manufacturers to provide those that offer the product for sale or distribution in the state with a certificate of compliance stating that the textile article is in compliance with these provisions and does not contain any regulated PFAS.
Exemptions to the bill would include many textiles and fabrics used for safety reasons where PFAS fire retardant qualities and other benefits would prove to be invaluable, including vehicle component parts, PPE, military clothing, industrial filters, and lab clothing. Should AB 1817 be signed into law, it would become active beginning January 1, 2025.
Assemblyman Ting wrote the bill due to growing concern over the use of PFAS chemicals, which are used in everything from fire retardants to non-stick pans, and how they relate to increased environmental and health risks including kidney and liver damage, decreased immune system function, interference with vaccine uptake, developmental and reproductive harm, and increased risk of cancer and asthma. While PFAS regulations in California have been growing in the last several years, including bills limiting the chemical from being in everything from food packaging to cosmetics, fabrics and textiles had only seen a few limitations, such as having PFAS in things intended for infants and babies. However, with concerns over PFAS still growing, Ting decided to have a bill cover all clothing and textiles due to safer alternatives being available that aren’t PFAS.
“California has already enacted a series of laws to protect consumers and the environment from the hazardous impacts of PFAS, including a bill I successfully championed just last year prohibiting its use in paper-based food packaging,” said Assemblyman Ting earlier this year. “These efforts center on the premise that prevention is the best cure, and my bill would extend this same logic to the textile industry to reduce the harm these substances can cause. There are safer alternatives manufacturers can use.”
The latest potential PFAS regulation in California
Supporters of the bill, which includes health and environmental groups, specifically noted risks through PFAS being in drinking water and other areas.
“The Safer Clothes and Textiles Act will help protect all Californians, our drinking water, and our environment,” added Director of State Health Policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Avinash Kar.
However, many businesses and companies have come out in opposition to the bill, with many protesting that the tight regulations will bring havoc to interstate commerce, difference of regulations between states, weaker products without PFAS, heavy economic impact, and confusing new regulations for everyone involved in the making and transportation of goods.
“California once again rushes headfirst into passing a bill without looking at all possible outcomes of it,” said Vincent Gatineau, a consumer product legislation lobbyist, to the Globe on Wednesday. “You can spend a lot of time learning the best and safest ways to dive into a pool, but first you need to check that it isn’t the shallow end. That’s essentially bills like AB 1917 and others surrounding PFAS. There are health risks surrounding them but you need to look at other things too, like what the economic impact will be. Like what the manufacturing impact will be. If companies can’t continue making these products, they’ll either move out of California or close down. There’s a lot to this, and the people behind it just don’t seem to care.”
While the bill was vigorously opposed by GOP Assemblymembers and Senators at every vote, either voting “no” or abstaining, the bill still had enough support from Democrats to pass. This culminated in the 56-2 with 22 abstention Assembly vote on Tuesday, bringing the bill to Governor Newsom’s desk. Newsom’s yea or nay on the bill is expected to come in the coming days.
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