Equilibrium & Sustainability

‘Forever chemicals’ to dominate state toxics policies in 2022, NGO finds

The Hoosic River as it runs through the village of Hoosick Falls, N.Y.
Associated Press - Mike Groll

The cancer-linked compounds known as “forever chemicals” will top the charts as the number-one driver of state-level toxic chemical policies in 2022, an environmental health umbrella group announced on Thursday. 

“State legislatures recognize the severity of the toxic PFAS crisis we’re facing and they’re taking action,” Sarah Doll, national director of the Safer States network, said in a statement. “2022 will be another groundbreaking year when it comes to addressing toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in state policies.” 

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known for their propensity to linger both in the human body and in the environment, are key components in a wide range of household goods, as well as a type of foam used to fight jet-fuel fires. Some of these so-called forever chemicals — which include thousands of different compounds — are linked to kidney cancer, thyroid disease and other illnesses.   

PFAS have been present in the nation’s waterways, soil and products for decades, but only recently have they begun to spark media and legislative attention.  

To date, the Environmental Protection Agency has only set non-binding health advisories for two types of PFAS but has announced plans to regulate these two compounds in drinking water by 2023. And while Congress has sought action on this issue, it has thus far been up to individual states to set standards for these chemicals.  

There are currently 32 states slated to consider more than 210 PFAS-related policies in 2022, according to Safer States, a national network of state-level environmental health organizations.  

“To foster clean, healthy, and thriving communities, states recognize how critical it is to protect residents from toxic threats,” Doll said. “States continue to lead the way in addressing these serious problems with urgency and innovative solutions.” 

At least 17 states are considering implementing policies to address PFAS clean up, management and accountability, including medical monitoring for exposure victims, while at least 19 starts are evaluating legislation that would set standards for PFAS in drinking water, according to Safer States.  

In addition, at least 10 of these states are weighing restrictions on all PFAS except those that are unavoidable, and/or requiring disclosure of their inclusion in products, the group reported. Six states are also considering policies that would restrict the use of such chemicals in cosmetics or children’s products. 

Updated 1:25 a.m.

Tags forever chemicals PFAS

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