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New Colorado law will ban sales of dental floss, clothes, & other household products containing toxic "forever chemicals"

What items will be taken off shelves as Colorado look to eliminate PFAS?
What items will be taken off shelves as Colorado look to eliminate PFAS? 03:27

Your favorite clothes, cookware, and even dental floss may contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to human health. Now, a new Colorado law is aiming to make those products safer.

The new law will affect all kinds of things Coloradans buy and use every day, that are made using something called per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

They are commonly called "forever chemicals," because of how durable they are, which makes them great ingredients in things like waterproof clothing and nonstick cookware.

The problem is, the more humans are exposed to PFAS, the more they can build up in the body, and can increase the risk of serious health problems, including cancer, heart disease, and infertility. 

This week, advocates celebrated the passage of the new law in Brighton. 

State Senator Lisa Cutter speaks about her bill banning certain PFAS products Tuesday afternoon in Brighton. Kati Weis, CBS News Colorado

Here's how the law will work: starting in 2026, the sale of certain cleaning products, cookware, dental floss, menstruation products, and ski wax that contain PFAS will be banned. 

By 2028, it will also ban the sale of all PFAS-treated clothes, backpacks, and waterproof outdoor apparel. In the meantime, starting in 2025, companies will be required to put disclosure labels on PFAS clothing they sell.

Menstruation products containing PFAS are one of the items on the list to be banned for sale in Colorado by 2026.  Kati Weis, CBS News Colorado

State Senator Lisa Cutter, a Democrat representing Evergreen and Morrison, was one of the bill's sponsors.

"We know that PFAS are a dangerous toxin. We don't need to continue producing them. Certainly, there are cases where it's not plausible right away to gravitate away from them, but we need to be moving in that direction," Cutter said. "Our community shouldn't have to pay the price for their health."

Asked about concerns about a lack of viable alternatives for durable outdoor clothing, Cutter said, "I think we're smart people and there's lots of innovation and there are lots of things going on already in that space, and I think that if we don't point people in that direction through legislation, then they're never going to have an incentive to change."

Kati Weis, CBS News Colorado

Cutter added, "There are lots of things we can do to create products that are durable and water resistant without resorting to harmful chemicals."

Madhvi Chittoor, 13, of Arvada, is a rising freshman in high school and an environmental activist. She testified at the capitol this spring in support of the law change. 

Madhvi Chittoor shakes Gov. Jared Polis' hand after he signed the new PFAS bill into law in May of last year.  Lalitha Chittoor

"They don't biodegrade, and they bioaccumulate into all living beings, which includes our food, even in our water, our soil, all over the ecosystem, in animals, and now even in our bodies," Chittoor said. "It's seen even in fetuses, and it causes so many health effects, and it's a very big problem."

As more research emerges about the potential dangers of exposure to PFAS, more states are passing laws to limit their use in everyday life. 

Colorado is one of 28 states to adopt policies on PFAS, according to the advocacy group Safer States

Nationwide, the EPA set new legal limits this spring on PFAS in drinking water. 

But for many local water districts to comply, it will cost tens of millions of tax dollars, and will likely force many districts to hike up water bill rates.

Thornton residents see rise in water bills as city battles PFAS 03:07

As CBS News Colorado found in May, about one-third of the water utilities in Colorado still have not even begun testing or mitigating their water supplies for PFAS.

One-third of Colorado water utilities haven't tested for toxic "forever chemicals." Here's who has. 04:19

According to an exhibit filed for the bill, $51 million has already been spent on clean up in Colorado. 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (known as PFAS) are long-lasting compounds that are showing up in soil, ground water, drinking water sources, even rainfall, and have been linked to cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, and other ailments. CBS News

That's why Metro Water Recovery in Brighton also supported the law change. 

"Metro's very focused on ensuring that our communities and our ratepayers don't foot the bill for this contamination that we receive," said Jennifer Robinett, the director of environmental services for Metro Water Recovery. "We work with the businesses that discharge to our treatment facilities to inform them of these types of chemicals, but it's frustrating, you know, the fact that we're receiving it, but we can't do anything about it because it keeps coming in all these products."

Robinett hopes the bill will help make a dent in the amount of PFAS contamination that ultimately ends up in water runoff and wastewater. 

"There's no information on most product labels that inform consumers," she said. "So, we really need to rely on bills like this to help consumers understand the choices that they're making, and for it to not be present in the first place."

Dental floss containing PFAS is another item on the list of products to be banned for sale by 2026 in Colorado.  Kati Weis, CBS News Colorado

However, some critics warn the new state law may only end up increasing consumer costs in other areas. Asked about those concerns, Cutter says that the law will provide plenty of time in a phase out for industries to create safer products. 

"It's really hard coming up against a powerful lobby, and they spent a lot of money ensuring that these chemicals can continue being put into our products and make profits for these companies," Cutter said. "We took comment from a lot of people and some companies flew people in from all over the world to lobby because, you know, (they claim) we're stifling innovation, we're stifling industry, but I think we're smarter and better than that. I think you can have both things. I think you can have a successful company, and you can also look out for the communities that you serve. I think there are alternatives, and I have faith that we're going to be able to continue developing those."

Either way, Chittoor feels laws like these are critical to protect our future because if kept unchecked, these practically indestructible chemicals will only continue to build up in our environment and our bodies.

She says the new law builds upon another law on PFAS products signed in 2022, which she also helped pass, and she says her fight for public health won't stop here. 

South Metro Fire Rescue stops using foams containing PFAs for jet fuel fires 03:45

As CBS News Colorado reported earlier this month, many fire departments and industries still store and use firefighting foam that contains PFAS. South Metro Fire Rescue is the first in the state to begin using a PFAS-free foam to fight jet fuel fires at an airport. 

"We still have such a long way to go... we still have so many other products," Chittoor said. "We have to ban it all everywhere."

Madhvi Chittoor testifying at Colorado's capitol in support of the new PFAS regulations this spring.  Lalitha Chittoor

How will this new Colorado law be enforced? Cutter says the Colorado Attorney General's Office will be in charge of fielding and investigating complaints on companies that are non-compliant. 

The American Chemistry Council took a "neutral" position on the bill at the state capitol in the spring. 

In a written statement to CBS Colorado, the American Chemistry Council said in full: 

"We appreciate the efforts of Colorado lawmakers to take a more focused approach to the issue. "Today's PFAS are integral to thousands of products that we use every day and are an important enabling technology for key sectors of the economy, including aerospace, autos, semiconductors, electronics, alternative energy, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, building and construction, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture.  "The importance of PFAS chemistries continues to be recognized by many state lawmakers, as most PFAS legislation is focused on specific applications as opposed to broad bans. To date, 28 states have enacted some type of PFAS legislation with the vast majority (over 90%) 

choosing an approach to focus on environmental standards for specific PFAS and/or regulating a targeted set of specific uses.  Two states have enacted extremely broad regulations and are struggling to implement these policies given their scope and significant unintended consequences.  Overall, policymakers at both the state and federal levels seem to be recognizing that it is not scientifically accurate to group all fluoro chemistry together and that there are critical, safe uses of this chemistry – both of which are leading to more focused public policies.

 "The importance of PFAS chemistries has been echoed by many critical stakeholders, including:

  • The Biden Administration's Department of Defense has said that losing access to PFAS "would greatly impact national security". According to DoD, "PFAS are critical to DoD mission success and readiness and to many national sectors of critical infrastructure, including information technology, critical manufacturing, health care, renewable energy, and transportation. DoD relies on an innovative, diverse U.S. industrial economy. Most. . . PFAS are critical to the national security of the United States."
  • The semiconductor industry, warning on restrictions to new PFAS chemistries in EPA's PFAS New Chemicals Framework, has warned that onerous restrictions "would be catastrophic. . . . and would result in a complete shutdown of all U.S. domestic semiconductor manufacturing operations."
  • AdvaMed, a trade association representing advanced medical technology companies, speaking before Congress on one category of PFAS, has said, "It is hard to imagine the medical industry without the many important products that contain fluoropolymers.  C-PAP machines, prosthetics, IV bags, surgical instruments, and many other medical technologies contain PFAS. These medical devices are critical to the treatment and health of Americans."
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said, "Today's innovative fluoro chemistries are the backbone of our economy."

"PFAS are a diverse universe of chemistries. They have differing health and environmental profiles.  It is not scientifically accurate or appropriate to treat all PFAS the same. In fact, the majority of PFAS that have been the focus of attention are no longer produced in the US, Europe and Japan. "Consumers should also know that PFAS chemistries in commerce today have been reviewed by regulators before introduction, are subject to ongoing review, and are supported by a robust body of health and safety data. PFAS chemistries are being regulated at the state and federal levels, including through the actions described in EPA's PFAS Strategic Roadmap, and there has been significant work to address potential concerns with PFAS through Congressional action. "We support strong, science-based regulations for PFAS chemistries that take into account the differences between them and continue to allow for the many products that they enable. We will continue to engage with Colorado policymakers on this issue and implementation of this new law."

Household items containing toxic "forever chemicals" will be banned under new Colorado law 11:06

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