The Golden State continues to crack down on the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemicals that put our health and the environment at risk. Governor Newsom tonight signed AB 1817 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), which bans the use of these harmful substances in fabrics by 2025. They’re commonly added to clothing and household items to make them water or stain resistant.
“I applaud the Governor for signing this meaningful legislation into law, and once again making California a leader in getting rid of PFAS. By banning its use in fabrics, AB 1817 addresses a source of environmental contamination and reduces human exposure to these toxic chemicals. This is a first-in-the nation law to stop the use of these ‘forever chemicals’ in this product category, setting up a national model on the efforts to mitigate PFAS pollution. It’s a great follow up to my legislation from last year, which bans these harmful substances in food packaging,” said Ting.
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.
The signing of AB 1817 is timely because a new study released this month by the Green Science Policy Institute found high concentrations of PFAS in school uniforms sold in the United States and Canada. This is concerning because children wear them for about eight hours a day, absorbing the chemicals through skin contact. “I don’t know any parent who values stain repellency over their child’s health,” said University of Toronto Professor Miriam Diamond, co-author of the study.
The textile industry uses PFAS in products like apparel, footwear, bedding, draperies, and upholstery to repel stains and water. There are already safer alternatives on the market. In fact, several leading companies in various textile industries have already committed to banning PFAS or have fully phased out PFAS in their products including Puma, Levi’s & Strauss, H&M, Patagonia, and IKEA – some of which supported AB 1817.
“Californians across the spectrum overwhelmingly support getting PFAS out of everyday products like clothes and textiles,” said Avinash Kar, a senior attorney and director of Health & Food at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “Our legislature and Governor Newsom heard the message and delivered for the state’s residents, helping to protect the health and environment of Californians and beyond. We thank Mr. Ting for his leadership on the bill.” AB 1817 is cosponsored by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Clean Water Action, and NRDC.
Companies that manufacture outdoor apparel made for severe wet conditions have been given an additional three years (to 2028) to comply with the new law to give them time to find safe substitutes for PFAS. During that extension, products must have labels stating the presence of PFAS to raise awareness. AB 1817 also includes some exceptions for PFAS use: carpets, rugs, after-market treatments and protective equipment used in critical functions, such as firefighting or for industrial applications of textiles.
AB 1817 builds upon legislation already enacted in California, including the phasing out 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.