It’s Monday, February 6, and states are considering hundreds of policies to protect people from toxic chemicals.

Amid growing awareness of the dangers posed by toxic chemicals, many states are poised to take legislative action this year. According to an analysis released today by Safer States, a national alliance of environmental health organizations, at least 31 states will consider more than 260 policies to address the dangers of “forever chemicals,” polyvinyl chloride, formaldehyde, parabens, and other substances.

“It’s a super exciting year,” Sarah Doll, Safer States’ national director, told me. She said the gathering momentum and “bipartisan-ness” of proposed policies bodes well for public health and the environment.

As in the past two years, Safer States’ report found that so-called “forever chemicals” — shorthand for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS — are expected to “dominate” states’ toxics-related agendas in 2023, with at least 16 states considering tighter regulations to limit or disclose their use in products like food packaging, cookware, and clothing. PFAS are a class of more than 9,000 chemicals that have been used since the 1940s for their water- and stain-resistant properties, but research now links them to cancer, immune disease, and hypertension and shows that they don’t break down in the environment. Studies have found PFAS in the blood of 98 percent of the U.S. population.

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Some states that have already restricted PFAS are going further — either by banning their incineration or by extending the statute of limitations for lawsuits against the chemicals’ manufacturers. Thousands of lawsuits have already been filed against PFAS manufacturers in an effort to recoup cleanup costs, and some estimates say manufacturers could face liabilities of up to $30 billion.

Other policies on the docket involve eliminating chemical additives from cosmetics, setting up testing and monitoring programs for microplastics in drinking water, and creating new disclosure requirements for chemicals of concern. Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and New Jersey are considering banning heavy metals and chemical additives from plastics labeled as recyclable.

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