Amongst a cascade of corporations shifting away from the compounds in some or all merchandise are Patagonia, Victoria’s Secret, Goal, House Depot, Lowe’s, Ralph Lauren, Zara, H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, McDonald’s, Burger King, Ceremony Assist, Amazon, Starbucks, Complete Meals, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
Sephora, Revolution Magnificence and Goal are amongst these within the beauty and private care sector which have introduced phase-outs of PFAS.
In December, 3M, maybe the world’s largest PFAS producer, introduced it might discontinue making the chemical compounds, partially citing “accelerating regulatory developments centered on lowering or eliminating the presence of PFAS”.
Firms broadly use PFAS regardless of their myriad dangers as a result of they’re so efficient. The story of out of doors big REI Co-op is emblematic of trade resistance to phase-outs.
In March 2021, a public well being marketing campaign started
calling out a evident inconsistency between REI’s virtuous advertising and marketing and use of PFAS in waterproof textiles: the corporate boasted of “accountable manufacturing” and suggested its prospects to “depart no hint” within the wilderness, however bought clothes waterproofed with harmful PFAS chemical compounds that the marketing campaign famous left a “poisonous path of air pollution”.
However that modified in September 2022. California banned PFAS in attire and textiles, and New York adopted quickly after. A February REI
announcement that it might part out the chemical compounds “partially to make sure broad trade alignment with new state legal guidelines relating to the usage of PFAS” marked a serious victory for public well being advocates, and an analogous story is taking part in out throughout the broader market. REI didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Public stress can also be fueling the event. REI confronted “immense stress” from a coalition of greater than 100 NGOs and 150,000 co-op members who signed a petition demanding the corporate get rid of PFAS within the 18 months forward of the California attire ban, mentioned Mike Schade, who spearheaded the trouble with Poisonous-Free Future’s Thoughts the Retailer program. Whilst REI held out, different corporations that Thoughts the Retailer approached, like Wendy’s and McDonald’s, dedicated to eliminating PFAS.
The interaction among the many campaigns, corporations committing to eliminating the chemical compounds and state legal guidelines creates a potent “synergy” and sends stress in each instructions, Schade mentioned.
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“If we get more companies to act, that builds more political support for action at the state level to regulate and restrict harmful chemicals like PFAS,” Schade added. “At the same time, more states acting will create more pressure on businesses to take action ahead of state policies.”
California state assembly member Phil Ting’s bills to ban the chemicals’ use in food packaging and apparel drew surprisingly little resistance from industry, he said, which he ascribed to market momentum. Though most companies, like REI, were still using the chemicals, some major names like Levi’s, Whole Foods and McDonald’s had already announced phase-outs, the latter two amid pressure from Toxic-Free Future.
“It didn’t seem like government was leading, it seemed like government was supporting what had already started happening in the private sector, and that made it much more palatable for my colleagues,” Ting said.
Removing the chemicals and identifying, testing and developing safe alternatives for market production is a slow and difficult process that can take years. Before its March announcement, REI had said the “performance that customers expected” could not be matched by alternatives. Still, other companies managed to phase out the chemicals. Levi’s eliminated PFAS by 2018, but a spokesperson said the “challenge is significant considering that there are currently no equally effective alternatives to” PFAS.
Moreover, the supply chain is riddled with PFAS entry points as the chemicals are sometimes intentionally or accidentally added to materials upstream. PFAS are also used as lubricants that prevent machines from sticking to materials during the manufacturing process, and previous testing by the Guardian of consumer products highlighted how that can leave low levels of the chemicals on consumer goods.
In order to remove PFAS from any consumer products we have to stop the chemicals from being made in the first place
Christina Ross of Credo Beauty
That can mean that even manufacturers with good intentions may not know their products are contaminated with PFAS, said Christina Ross, a senior scientist with Credo Beauty, a “clean beauty” company. Credo never intentionally added PFAS to its products, and it has committed to removing unintentionally added chemicals by 2025. That involves working with suppliers throughout the supply chain, but Credo has found that while some care about the issue, others do not.
“We try to honor those suppliers who do by giving them our money,” Ross said.
But that is ultimately an inefficient and unreliable way for entire sectors to eliminate the chemicals, and Ross said it underscores the need for legislative bans. “In order to remove PFAS from any consumer products we have to stop the chemicals from being made in the first place,” she said.
That’s unlikely anytime soon at the federal level, where only two out of 50 stand-alone PFAS bills were approved last session, and sources say hyper-partisanship makes passing laws unlikely. States and the US House are passing the measures with bipartisan support, though the laws are largely enacted in Democratic-controlled states.
Observers offer two theories on why. The PFAS issue knows no socioeconomic or political boundaries – PFAS contamination is a problem for everyone, Doll noted, and it has hit constituents whom Republicans traditionally support, like farmers and firefighters.
Others say Republicans in most Democratic-controlled states don’t have a shot at stopping the bills, so they vote for the measure instead of angering constituents for no political gain.
Toxic-Free Future’s Hitchcock said she sells legislators on both sides of the aisle on PFAS legislation by pointing out that banning the chemicals makes sense financially. “We’re paying so much to clean up the mess, why not invest in not making the mess in the first place?” she said.
That thinking is partly behind the momentum in the states, but she added: “We can’t depend on just that – we need the federal government and Congress to act.”
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