CA Is First State to Ban Toxic “Forever” PFAS in Textiles

Because of the size of California’s economy, the law is likely to affect the presence of PFAS in textiles far beyond state borders.

With Governor Newsom’s signature yesterday on AB 1817, the Safer Clothes and Textiles Act, California became the first state to phase out the use of toxic “forever” PFAS chemicals in clothes and textiles. Because of the size of California’s economy, the law’s influence will be felt not only in California, but well beyond, from the places where textiles are produced to the places where they are disposed of or discarded. It is also likely to affect the presence of PFAS in textiles in other US markets outside California.

Californians overwhelmingly support ending the unnecessary use of PFAS in clothes and textiles. And California’s leaders have delivered a law to protect its residents and the environment, building on the progress made by leading companies that have already transitioned away from PFAS or have committed to eliminating such uses. Entities like Ikea, Patagonia, and the California Outdoor Recreation Partnership supported the bill. The bill was co-sponsored by NRDC, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, and Clean Water Action, and authored by Assembly Member Phil Ting.

PFAS are a class of chemicals that are harmful to health and the environment, and they should be eliminated from the products that come into our homes and workplaces whenever possible. PFAS contaminates drinking water across the state and country, particularly in disadvantaged communities. These chemicals are showing up in rainwater and sea spray and are found in the bodies of virtually all people living in the US. They are associated with myriad health effects, including cancer, liver and kidney damage, and suppressed immunity (including interference with the effectiveness of vaccines).

What the bill does

Broadly speaking, the new law will ban PFAS in most clothing (including outdoor apparel) and textiles starting January 2025. Outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions that is not marketed for general consumer use and is designed for sports experts has an extension until 2028, but manufacturers will have to disclose that the products are made with PFAS chemicals during 2025-2028, including on online listings.

All intentional uses of PFAS in clothes and textiles will be banned, as will any levels above 100 parts per million (ppm) from 2025-2027, and any levels above 50 ppm after 2027. Personal protective equipment for workers is exempted from the bill, although the bill’s findings note the need for efforts to ensure that PFAS are removed from protective gear for firefighters and others as soon as possible.

The law defines textile articles and textiles broadly. Generally, textiles ordinarily used in households and businesses--from backpacks and footwear to sheets, towels, tablecloths, upholstery, and more--are covered by the law’s provisions.

The new law, along with another bill signed into law yesterday that bans PFAS in personal care products, adds to prior progress in California on eliminating unnecessary uses of PFAS. NRDC has worked on and supported previous laws that have required the elimination of PFAS in paper-based food packaging, children’s products, and fire-fighting foam, to protect our health and drinking water.

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