The research conducted by Safer States, an alliance of environmental health organisations, analysed anticipates a raft of new state legislation addressing toxic chemicals and plastics across US.

The anaylsis found that banning PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals”, will be a dominating theme in 2024, with at least 35 states introducing policies across 450 new bills.

A proposed ban on PFAS is already underway in the EU, with more than 100 strongly supporting a comprehensive ban on these harmful chemicals. In the US, there is already legislation underway restricting the use of PFAS in apparel in Washington, California and New York.

The analysis highlighted that key areas of focus for 2024 include addressing the ongoing PFAS contamination and plastics pollution crises, protecting drinking water, and restricting hazardous chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products.

Safer States says several US states are exploring ways to reduce the use of plastics overall, eliminate the use of most toxic plastics and chemical additives. States are also investigating sources of microplastics and ways to incentivise reuse.

Some US states are acting to regulate the entire class of PFAS as a way to avoid regrettable substitution (where companies substitute one toxic chemical for another) and create pressure for a transition towards safer solutions.

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Phasing out PFAS use

The analysis found at least 21 US states are considering new policies to address all PFAS use, except for where necessary for health and safety, targeting consumer product categories, including textiles.

At least 24 US states are considering new legislation to address harmful plastics and packaging. Several states are said to be aiming to reduce the use of plastics overall, and eliminating the use of the most toxic plastics – including PVC.

Some states are also investigating sources of microplastics and looking to prevent false solutions such as “chemical recycling,” and incentivise the reuse of plastics.

The report claims 23 states have adopted a common comprehensive and scientifically accurate definition of PFAS so far.

Manufacturers ‘undermining’ progress on PFAS

However, the report also found that in certain 2024 state policy discussions, some PFAS manufacturers and users are aiming to undermine or alter adopted scientific PFAS definitions as a way to allow them to continue to use many kinds of these “forever chemicals”.

Toxic-Free Future’s market transformation program Mind the Store noted that retailers are increasingly adopting policies to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals such as PFAS and toxic plastics in key product sectors, such as textiles and cosmetics.

Cindy Luppi, national field director of Clean Water Action, said: “Time and time again, we’ve seen state policy transform key market sectors toward safer products. Allies across the country are actively pushing for retailers to eliminate more toxic chemicals and plastics from the products on their shelves and move to safer solutions across the board.”

Recently, the American Apparel & Footwear Association called the new restrictions in Washington State on PFAS in apparel “unnecessary” and urged the state to align with existing definitions and exemptions, in case it goes ahead.

Chemical management company Oeko-Tex also set a new limit value for total fluorine (TF) as part of its ban on the intentional use of PFAS, which came into immediate effect on 1 January 2024.