As PFAS chemicals are becoming regulated in states across the nation, it’s helpful to know what the regulations are, why they are being instated and how they might apply to your business.
Fabric is a new frontier for PFAS regulations, as most of the actions at the moment deal with groundwater. However, a few are beginning to target specific end products, like upholstered furniture, and, so far, only two bills have passed that impact the home furnishings industry.
Maine is the first, and in July 2021 the state’s legislation called for what is now considered the most aggressive PFAS restrictions in the country in terms of the scope of products impacted.
Questions about the rule’s implications for residential upholstered furniture came up immediately and intensified last month when state officials released a “draft concept” for implementing the program.
Concerns originally were focused on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as “long-chain” or C8 PFAS. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the manufacture, use and import of these compounds in 2010 as part of the PFOA Stewardship Program.
The current PFAS chemistry used by some U.S. mills/finishers for “performance” fabrics is “short-chain” or C6 technology, according to a 2018 fact sheet from the National Council of Textile Organizations.
However, Maine’s legislation — and bills proposed in a handful of other states — makes no distinction between PFAS and PFOA. It simply bans consumer products with any PFAS by January 2030.
And after-market fabric protection sprays with PFAS will be banned from use in Maine as of January 1, 2023.
According to the American Home Furnishings Alliance, specifically, Maine’s PFAS products bill requires companies to provide it with: 1) a description of the product; 2) the purpose for PFAS use in the product; 3) the amount and type of PFAS in the product; and, 4) contact information for the manufacturer.
The law also allows the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to collect a fee for each individual product registered and to levy fines on companies that fail to comply.
The American Chemistry Council suggests the DEP should expect to receive notifications for hundreds of thousands of products — on a scale “likely to overload the department.”
Colorado is the other state affected most by PFAS regulations at the moment, as a bill was introduced in March that prohibits the sale of fabric treatments with any “intentionally added” PFAS after January 1, 2024.
The sale or distribution of upholstered furniture containing PFAS is banned after January 1, 2025.
Similar laws are still under consideration in California, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York and New Hampshire.
Like Colorado, the California, Minnesota and Rhode Island bans will kick in January 1, 2024, but Vermont, New York and New Hampshire bans will not take effect until 2030.
So far, only two fabric companies are listed as PFAS-free — Milliken, for select products, and Revolution Performance Fabrics for all its products.
With all PFAS chemicals now a focus for elimination within several states, new standards and third-party verification programs are springing up focused on directing consumers to PFAS-free products.
GreenScreen Certified Standard for Furniture & Fabrics is a third-party certification that meets the Kaiser Permanente environmentally preferable product (EPP) criteria. It was developed by Clean Production Action, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to advancing solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials and environmentally preferable products.
It offers several levels of certification and aligns with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED requirements. Glen Raven’s Sunbrella Assure contract fabric technology recently achieved GreenScreen Certified Bronze certification — becoming the first fabric manufacturer in the category to do so.
For more information, the Green Science Policy Institute has developed a “PFAS Central” website (www.pfascentral.org) for consumers where it publishes lists of PFAS-free products in a variety of categories, including furniture and “textile technologies.”
IKEA currently is the only residential furniture manufacturer listed in the furniture category. A link to IKEA’s chemical policy page tells customers, “IKEA started to phase out highly fluorinated chemicals in 2009 and since 2016 all highly fluorinated chemicals are banned in IKEA textiles.”
For a state-by-state breakdown of PFAS and regulations, visit this site: https://saferstates.org/toxic-chemicals/pfas/