Newsom signs laws banning 'forever chemicals' in children's products, food packaging

Newsom signs laws banning 'forever chemicals' in children's products, food packaging

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomAlarm grows over smash-and-grab robberies amid holiday season Newsom pledges increased spending on busting retail crime rings The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud MORE (D) signed two laws on Tuesday banning the use of toxic “forever chemicals” in children’s products and disposable food packaging, as well as a package of bills to overhaul the state’s recycling operations, his office announced that evening.

“California’s hallmark is solving problems through innovation, and we’re harnessing that spirit to reduce the waste filling our landfills and generating harmful pollutants driving the climate crisis,” Newsom said in a press statement.

The pollutants driving the first two laws are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of toxic compounds linked to kidney, liver, immunological, developmental and reproductive issues. These so-called forever chemicals are most known for contaminating waterways via firefighting foam, but they are also key ingredients in an array of household products like nonstick pans, toys, makeup, fast-food containers and waterproof apparel.

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One of the laws, introduced by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D), prohibits the use of PFAS in children’s products, such as car seats and cribs, beginning on July 1, 2023, according to the governor’s office.

“As a mother, it’s hard for me to think of a greater priority than the safety and well-being of my child,” said Friedman in a news release from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). “PFAS have been linked to serious health problems, including hormone disruption, kidney and liver damage, thyroid disease and immune system disruption.

“This new law ends the use of PFAS in products meant for our children,” she added.

Bill Allayaud, EWG’s director of California government affairs, praised Newsom “for giving parents confidence that the products they buy for their children are free from toxic PFAS.”

“It’s heartening that for this legislation, the chemical industry joined consumer advocates to create a reasonable solution, as public awareness increases of the health risks posed by PFAS exposure,” he said in a statement.

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Because PFAS coating on infant car seats and bedding wear off with time, the toxins can get into dust that children might inhale, according to the EWG.

The second PFAS-related law, proposed by Assemblyman Philip Ting (D), bans intentionally added PFAS from food packaging and requires cookware manufacturers to disclose the presence of PFAS and other chemicals on products and labels online — beginning on January 1, 2023.

“PFAS chemicals have been a hidden threat to our health for far too long,” Ting said in a second EWG news release. “I applaud the governor for signing my bill, which allows us to target, as well as limit, some of the harmful toxins coming into contact with our food.”

Despite the widely recognized risks of PFAS exposure, the Environmental Protection Agency has only established “health advisory levels” for the two most well-known compounds rather than regulate the more than 5,000 types of PFAS. States like California have therefore taken to enacting bits and pieces of legislation on their own. Although the House passed a bill in July that would require the EPA to set standards, companion legislation has yet to reach the Senate.

“This law adds momentum to the fight against nonessential uses of PFAS,” David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG, said in a statement. “California has joined the effort to protect Americans from the entire family of toxic forever chemicals.”

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As far as recycling is concerned, Newsom signed a law banning the use of misleading recycling labels, as well as legislation designed to raise consumer awareness and industry accountability. The recycling bills serve to complement a $270 million portion of the state budget that will go toward modernizing recycling systems and promoting a circular economy, according to his office.

Other measures in the recycling package include provisions to discourage the export of plastic that becomes waste, more flexibility for operations at beverage container recycling centers and labeling requirements to ensure that products designated as “compostable” are truly compostable.

“With today’s action and bold investments to transform our recycling systems, the state continues to lead the way to a more sustainable and resilient future for the planet and all our communities,” Newsom said.