By Alex Brown
In rivers and groundwater, in human bloodstreams and products ranging from cosmetics to food packaging to carpets, researchers are increasingly finding “forever chemicals” that don’t break down naturally and are shown to cause myriad health issues.
State lawmakers across the country want to tackle the growing problem. Several states have passed landmark laws in recent years, and now dozens of legislatures are considering hundreds of bills to crack down on using such compounds. The legislation would strengthen product disclosure laws, increase liability for polluters, bolster testing plans and enact water quality standards.
Thousands of chemicals make up the group known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The chemicals have been found in an increasing number of watersheds and aquifers — as well as in the blood of nearly every American.
Some PFAS compounds, research shows, can increase the risk of cancer, damage immune systems, cause metabolic disorders and decrease fertility.
“There’s a lot of urgency,” said Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States, an alliance of environmental health groups focused on toxic chemicals. “I’m seeing more states try to take really big bites at managing the PFAS crisis.”
Doll’s group has tracked more than 260 proposals in 31 states related to toxic chemicals, many focused on PFAS. Eleven of those states will consider sweeping restrictions or bans of PFAS across many economic sectors. Those bills follow a Maine law passed in 2021 that was the first in the country to ban PFAS in all new products, which will take effect in 2030.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.