Building upon California’s efforts to scale down the presence of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D- San Francisco) today introduced AB 1817/The Safer Clothes and Textiles Act, banning the use of these harmful chemicals in fabrics. Clothing, footwear, bedding, drapes and upholstery are some of the common everyday products treated with PFAS to repel water and stains.
“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. 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,” said Ting. “There are safer alternatives manufacturers can use.”
PFAS are a class of approximately 9,000 chemicals and have been linked to health problems, including cancer, hormone disruption, thyroid disease and vaccine interference. They’re referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their resistance to breaking down, making them persistent in the environment and human body. Consequently, PFAS have detected in the blood of over 98 percent of Americans.
When in fabric, PFAS shed into the air where people can inhale them. In addition, as PFAS-laced products are washed or thrown in a landfill, the chemicals can leach into marine habitat and groundwater. In fact, California water systems serving up to 16 million people have PFAS contamination, and it is more prevalent in under-resourced communities. Also worrisome is the effect these substances are having to the San Francisco Bay. Wildlife, including fish, seals and bird eggs, have some the highest levels of PFAS in the world, according to a recent study by the San Francisco Estuary Institute. Remediation and clean-up can be expensive, making AB 1817 a reasonable solution.
“Assemblymember Ting’s efforts to eliminate toxic ‘forever’ PFAS chemicals from the products coming into our homes and workplaces shows leadership in addressing a problem that affects us all,” said Avinash Kar, Director of State Health Policy for the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council.) “The Safer Clothes and Textiles Act will help protect all Californians, our drinking water, and our environment.” AB 1817 is cosponsored by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Clean Water Action, and NRDC.
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has been focusing on after-market sprays and treatment used to water- or stain-proof textiles, including carpets and rugs. AB 1817 targets fabrics with PFAS already embedded in them. Several leading companies have already stopped using PFAS in their products, including Levi’s, H&M and IKEA. Others, like Patagonia, Gap Inc. and Target have committed to do the same over the next couple of years.
California has previously enacted legislation phasing out the use of PFAS in paper-based food wrappers (AB 1200/Ting), children’s products (AB 652/Friedman) and firefighting foam (AB 1044/Allen). Ting’s AB 1201 passed last year, banning use of PFAS in products labeled “compostable” to prevent forever chemicals from contaminating agricultural soil.
AB 1817 will likely be heard in its first committee this Spring.