California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a number of bills Tuesday evening including measures banning “forever chemicals” in disposable food packaging and kids’ products, in addition to measures that seek to revamp the state’s recycling efforts.
“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 released late Tuesday.
The elements that prompted the first two measures are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are reportedly tied to a number of health issues including reproduction, the immune system, kidney and liver problems.
Known as “forever chemicals,” they have been found in water supplies through firefighting foam, The Hill reports, but they are also contained in several household products including toys, makeup, nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and fast-food packaging.
One measure that was introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman prohibits the use of the two elements in kids’ products like cribs and car seats starting on July 1, 2023, Newsom’s office noted.
“As a mother, it’s hard for me to think of a greater priority than the safety and well-being of my child,” the state lawmaker said in a news release issued by 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 noted further.
EWG’s director of California government affairs, Bill Allayaud, offered praise for the governor, saying he has given “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 noted in a statement.
The environmental group said that since chemical-containing coatings on child’s products wear off over time, it’s possible for the kids to breathe in the toxins.
The second PFAS-related piece of legislation was proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Philip Ting and bans the intentional addition of the chemicals to food packaging while requiring the makers of cookware to reveal their presence in products as well as posting it online beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
“PFAS chemicals have been a hidden threat to our health for far too long,” Ting said in another news release from the EWG. “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.”
“This law adds momentum to the fight against nonessential uses of PFAS,” noted David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG. “California has joined the effort to protect Americans from the entire family of toxic forever chemicals.”
As for PFAS chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency has only issued “health advisory levels” for the two most widely-known elements and has not regulated more than 5,000 different types of compounds. The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation in July requiring the EPA to regulate the compounds but a measure has yet to be introduced in the Senate, The Hill reported.
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