New California Bill Restricts PFAS Content in Textiles

In what promises to be an ongoing trend of growing regulation nationwide of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in consumer and other products, California recently enacted legislation banning certain uses of PFAS in textiles which will have a huge impact on the industry. The new legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 1817, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2025, and seeks to largely eliminate the use of intentionally-added PFAS chemicals in new textile products manufactured, sold, or distributed in California by 2027. AB 1817 follows a series of other California laws passed in recent years to regulate the use of PFAS in consumer products. As the ongoing scientific study of PFAS continues, similar laws are likely throughout the United States in the coming years.

AB 1817 broadly defines “textile articles” to include goods made from natural, manmade, or synthetic fibers and fabrics, such as clothing and apparel, accessories, household fabrics and upholstery used in drapery and furnishings, towels, bedding, and many other textiles used in consumer products. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2025, new — not previously used — textile articles containing “regulated PFAS” may not be manufactured, sold, or distributed in California. “Regulated PFAS” mean either (i) an intentionally-added PFAS that has a functional or technical effect on the product, or (ii) PFAS present above 100 ppm (beginning on Jan. 1, 2025) or 50 ppm (beginning on Jan. 1, 2027) as measured in total organic fluorine. When removing “regulated PFAS” from textile articles in order to comply with the new law, manufacturers must use the least toxic alternative available.

AB 1817 exempts certain personal protective equipment (PPE) used by individuals to minimize exposure to serious workplace hazards, such as the equipment worn by firefighters and first responders. But, PPE is not without other regulation in the state, and the California legislature made clear in its findings accompanying AB 1817 that it strongly encourages manufacturers, sellers, and distributors of PPE to find less toxic alternatives to PFAS. Also temporarily exempt from the new law is “outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions,” which includes apparel designed for use in extreme rain conditions and for outdoor sports such as offshore fishing and sailing, whitewater kayaking, and mountaineering. Outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions may still contain regulated PFAS until Jan. 1, 2028. But beginning in January 2025, manufacturers and sellers must disclose to purchasers that these products were made with PFAS chemicals.

Compliance with AB 1817 requires manufacturers of textile articles to certify their compliance in writing to distributors and retailers purchasing the products. For their part, retailers and distributors may rely on the certificate of compliance from the manufacturer when selling or distributing textile articles to the public, and such reliance, so long as it is in “good faith,” will satisfy their obligations under the new law.

AB 1817 will significantly impact manufacturers, sellers, and distributors of a wide range of textile articles in the largest state economy in the country. Given the widespread and long-term use of PFAS in certain water-resistant, stain-resistant, and other textile treatments, we can expect significant impact from the new restrictions and certification requirements in AB 1817.

For more information on the regulation of PFAS in California and the United States please contact a member of Taft’s Environmental practice. A link to the newly signed bill can be found here.

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