California advances PFAS measure to Senate

With just hours to go before a key legislative deadline, California’s Assembly passed a bill requiring the evaluation of short-chain PFASs in food contact materials (FCMs). AB 958 calls on the state Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) to revise its Priority Product Work Plan under the Safer Consumer Products (SCP) programme to include FCMs containing perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances. If it becomes law, the bill will direct the department on or before 1 January 2019 to identify the product-substance pair as a draft priority product and, within a year, begin adopting regulations to address them. The measure was passed on a 44-28 vote in a marathon floor session ahead of the 2 June deadline for bills to pass out of their chamber of origin. It now heads to the Senate. Industry opposition Ahead of the vote, the California Chamber of Commerce wrote to Assembly members urging their opposition. It was acting on behalf of a coalition of more than a dozen industry groups. Co-signers included: the American Chemistry Council (ACC); the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA); the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA); and the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA). Industry concerns include the fact that the legislation directs the DTSC not only to name FCMs with PFASs a priority product, but also to move them to the formal rulemaking phase. This “arbitrarily rejects the possibility that a DTSC review could result in a determination that rulemaking is not necessary,” they said. Support for ‘appropriate’ action But Andria Ventura, toxics program manager at NGO Clean Water Action (CWA) – which co-sponsored the measure – told Chemical Watch that the legislation that put the SCP regulation in place also allows for the legislature to put product/chemical combinations into the regulatory process. The SCP program, said Ms Ventura, is “by its very nature deliberate”, and it can therefore take many years for the DTSC to address a “major exposure pathway – if it ever does”. She said the department’s addressing PFASs in FCMs is particularly appropriate given that it is already gathering data on the substances in other product types. “Manufacturers will always be able to make the scientific case that the chemicals they are using are the best choices. I think that will be a hard case to make given the emerging evidence about even the newer PFASs and the fact that around 60% of products don’t include this class of chemicals at all,” she added. Ban on long-chain PFASs As currently drafted, the bill also calls for a prohibition on the manufacture or sale of any product containing PFASs with eight or more carbon atoms. But Ms Ventura says the authors have stated their intention to amend this ban out of the bill in the Senate. During the Assembly’s consideration of the measure, industry groups protested that the proposed prohibition of long-chain fluorinated chemistry was “overly broad, technically inaccurate and imposes compliance challenges”. As drafted, they said, “many products would inadvertently be restricted”, including in applications where “high molecular weight polymers are not bioavailable and are not restricted anywhere in the world.” Ms Ventura said while she doesn’t completely agree with these assertions, CWA supports jettisoning the provision from the bill. Further information is available at: AB 958 CalChamber coalition letter

Chemical Watch, 6 June 2017 ; ;