Colorado Governor Jared Polis today signed into law the most comprehensive state bill to date restricting the sale of PFAS “forever chemicals” in consumer products as well as fluids used in the extraction of oil and gas products as early as 2024.
The bipartisan bill, HB22-1345, will phase out PFAS chemicals in carpets, furniture, cosmetics, juvenile products, some types of food packaging, and the fluids used including oil and gas production. It will also require any cookware with PFAS to be labeled.
According to bill sponsor Representative Lisa Cutter, “In Colorado, our water supply is precious, and even small amounts of PFAS have been linked to serious health problems. We know there’s a problem, and it is incumbent upon us to act. We can’t afford to equivocate on the health and well-being of our water and our people, and this is an important step to eliminate these dangerous chemicals from our environment. I’m proud that we were able to pass meaningful legislation to prevent the inclusion of PFAS in many common consumer products sold in Colorado.”
“My House District is the location of the big PFAS contamination of ground water and the Widefield Aquifer,” said the other House bill sponsor, Representative Mary Bradfield. “This bill deals with consumer products for young children that contain PFAS. Now that we believe that PFAS is a potential health risk, we could be very surprised about how many products intentionally contain the PFAS compounds. HB22-1345 provides a timeline for these products for young children to be removed or replaced with products that contain a safer option than PFAS.”
The bill initially started when 11-year old Madhvi Chittoor met with State Representative Lisa Cutter in the summer of 2021 and discussed the impacts of PFAS on human health and the environment. Madhvi told Representative Cutter, “When all of our aquifers are polluted, where will we get our drinking water from? When our waterways like ponds, lakes, rivers are polluted, where will the fish live? What water will the animals drink? What water will the farmers use to grow our crops?”
Representative Cutter, was moved and convinced by Madhvi’s determination and committed to bring forward legislation addressing PFAS contamination, working with groups like Earthjustice, Sierra Club, and Conservation Colorado to craft the language.
PFAS are a class of chemicals linked to serious health impacts like cancer, organ damage, and suppression of the immune system. They are also highly toxic to people, especially those who are pregnant as well as newborns, especially in communities experiencing disproportionately historical amounts of cumulative air and water pollution. PFAS has been measured in the blood of nearly every American.
“Families like mine have been affected by PFAS poisoning our drinking water supplies,” said Liz Rosenbaum, community organizer for Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition. “We are already at a greater risk of health effects because of all the pollutants we’ve been exposed to, and limiting PFAS in consumer products gives us a better chance at avoiding serious health problems. It also has a far reaching impact in other states producing these chemicals — reducing demand protects communities living around the places this stuff is produced. At this time it is impossible to determine the amount of money families have already spent on medical care for health problems in our community. Colorado’s strong PFAS bans will prevent new communities from being contaminated the way mine was.”
A strong and diverse coalition of over 35 groups came together to pass HB22-1345, which included environmental conservation and environmental justice organizations, and water and wastewater utilities.
Water reclamation utilities were early supporters of the bill. PFAS are introduced into the water cycle when people wash, rinse or clean products containing PFAS, those chemicals go down the drain and into wastewater systems.
“Controlling PFAS at its source is the best way to keep it out of the environment,” said Blair Corning, deputy director of Environmental Programs for South Platte Renew and Jennifer Robinett, director of Environmental Services for Metro Water Recovery. “We expect this legislation to have a meaningful impact on reducing PFAS loads in our service areas.”
Each stakeholder recognizes PFAS pose a threat to air, water, and consumer safety because they are specially engineered to be resistant to both heat and water. They do not break down naturally in the environment, and migrate long distances in air, ground and surface water, resulting in long-term environmental contamination.
It’s been reported that Colorado is experiencing the worst drought conditions in 1200 years, and the last thing we should be doing is putting ‘forever chemicals’ in our dwindling water supply. State tests detected PFAS in every sample of state river water, and fish it has analyzed.
“I’m thrilled Colorado leaders moved decisively to better protect the state, especially those most vulnerable, from the health impacts of these toxic chemicals,” said Rebecca Curry, Colorado policy counsel at Earthjustice. “This bill also helps safeguard our state’s precious water supplies from these forever chemicals as we endure the effects of the worst drought conditions in centuries.”
For years Colorado legislators have recognized that pollutants like PFAS cannot be allowed to enter Colorado waters and have acted previously to limit exposure from firefighting foam. However, PFAS are found in hundreds of consumer products prompting the need for more action.
“We traveled to 16 cities in April talking to Coloradoans about toxics in their communities,” said Ean Thomas Tafoya, GreenLatinos CO State Director. “From Ft. Collins to San Luis to Commerce City people are crying out to #TakeonToxics. This bill is a big step towards protecting the water and the people.”
HB22-1345 was sponsored by Representatives Lisa Cutter and Mary Bradfield, and Senators Julie Gonzales and Pete Lee.