California has passed two laws banning the sale of PFAS in cosmetics and textiles, adding to the state’s ample legislation addressing the “forever chemicals” and requiring brands and manufacturers to make changes to offer their products there.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bills into law on Sept. 29, 2022. Most new cosmetics and textiles, including apparel, backpacks, and bedding, cannot be sold in the state beginning in 2025. At that time any company or individual selling the products in the state has to provide certification that the materials are PFAS-free.
There is an exception for certain types of outdoor apparel that have until 2028 to remove PFAS from their products. PFAS, which are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are often used in products to make them waterproof, and they can linger in the air, water, or soil, which is why they are often referred to as forever chemicals.
The Green Science Institute told NBC Bay Area that because of the market size of California, the legislation will impact the entire United States, hopefully increasing the distribution of PFAS-free products across the country. The institute says it hopes brands will be proactive and remove PFAS ahead of the state’s deadline.
“This is a huge deal,” Susan Little of the Environmental Working Group, which co-sponsored the cosmetics bill, said in a press release. “California has the largest statewide market for cosmetics and the sixth biggest economy in the world.”
The cosmetics ban specifically states it is for intentionally added PFAS, which the bill lists as chemicals a manufacturer deliberately adds that have a functional or technical effect on the product. Little told the Hill that “eliminating the intentional use of PFAS from cosmetics will remove those products with the highest levels of these chemicals from the market.”
Tools and information addressing chemical use in the textile and apparel industry are gaining traction. Bluesign recently introduced a web-based platform that helps manufacturers search for approved chemical products with defined sustainable attributes.
A scorecard released by NRDC, Fashion FWD, and US PIRG Education Fund, ranks the top 30 US-based apparel brands and retailers on their PFAS use. Some of the companies graded include Target, Costco, Nike, and Patagonia.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition halted the use of a product transparency platform earlier this year because of accusations that it isn’t entirely accurate. At the time the Norwegian Consumer Authority ruled that Norrøna and H&M stop using the system for their products.
Despite signing the two PFAS laws, Newsom vetoed another bill that would have created a public database of products that contain the chemicals.
The newly passed legislation comes two years after California banned 13 PFAS in personal care products. The state has also prohibited the chemicals in children’s products and paper-based food packaging.
Since California enacted its ban on PFAS in personal care products in 2020, Maryland, Maine, and Colorado have passed similar laws, according to the Environmental Working Group. Six other states have introduced bills banning PFAS in personal care products, the group says.
The California PFAS legislation is just part of a range of sustainability laws the state has passed in 2022. The state passed the nation’s toughest plastic waste law in June and added multiple pieces of energy and climate legislation at the end of August.