Friday, 21 June 2024

California Legislature sends ban of ‘forever chemicals’ in artificial turf to Gov. Newsom

SACRAMENTO — On Tuesday, the California Legislature approved a bill to ban the manufacturing and sale in the state of artificial turf containing the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

Assembly Bill 1423 was introduced by Assemblymember Pilar Schiavo (D-Santa Clarita), and advances to Gov. Gavin Newsom. The Environmental Working Group is sponsoring the legislation.

If the bill is signed, the ban would take effect on Jan. 1, 2026.

“There is no reason that California’s athletes or anyone else should be exposed to PFAS while playing on the field, especially when there are safer alternatives to these nonessential chemicals,” said Schiavo.

Artificial turf has recently become a source of concern for scientists, athletes and parents because of the many chemicals used in its production. Tests have shown some turf contains PFAS and, if inhaled or absorbed, PFAS-laden dust presents an exposure risk.

“As these fields age, they give off dust containing these chemicals, which are inhaled, ingested and released into our environment and surface and groundwater,” said Schiavo.

“California must protect the health of our young athletes, our water supply, and our community by making sure the fields of the future don’t contain these dangerous chemicals,” she added.

Even at low levels, exposure to these toxic chemicals can cause serious and lasting harm to the body. PFAS chemicals added to products also remain in our air, water and soil indefinitely.

Experts are especially concerned about PFAS in turf after its disposal, when the chemicals can run off and enter groundwater or surface water, polluting drinking water.

“Assemblymember Schiavo’s bill is a wake-up call both for consumers who use turf in their own yards and for those creating play spaces,” said Bill Allayaud, EWG’s California vice president of government affairs. “We should not expose ourselves and our children to the hidden dangers of PFAS, with their toxic impacts and persistence.”

PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment and they build up in our blood and organs. They are among the most persistent toxic compounds in existence, and exposure to these chemicals is linked to many health harms.

In July 2021, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment proposed bold limits to regulate toxic PFAS in drinking water. And in June, the federal Environmental Protection Agency unveiled unprecedented new limits for six notorious PFAS in drinking water – PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS, PFNA and PFHxS.

These new guidelines serve as a stark reminder of just how toxic to human health these forever chemicals can be, even at infinitesimal levels.

Putting health at risk

Absorption of PFAS through skin is likely not a major route of exposure, but more research is needed. Experts are concerned about the PFAS from the turf after its disposal. The PFAS from turf may enter wastewater, posing a pollution challenge for sanitation agencies.

Some PFAS have been linked to a higher risk of harm to the immune system, such as reduced vaccine efficacy; harm to development and the reproductive system, such as reduced birth weight and impacts on fertility; increased risk of certain cancers, like breast cancer; and effects on metabolism, such as changes in cholesterol and weight gain.

“PFAS are among the most persistent toxic compounds in existence,” said Tasha Stoiber, Ph.D., a senior scientist at EWG. “They pose a significant threat to public health by contaminating everything from drinking water and food to personal care products and cleaners.”

“We need to stop all nonessential uses of PFAS. By banning forever chemicals from artificial turf, California is taking an important step to protect public health and the environment,” said Stoiber.

Lawmakers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont have also introduced bills to regulate PFAS in turf. California is poised to be the first state to approve and enact a ban.

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