On May 1, 2024, Colorado became the thirteenth state to pass legislation banning per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS. The move comes shortly after PFAS received exceptional public attention when EPA finalized its first-ever national drinking water standards for six PFAS this past April. The release of these new standards now requires states and industry to act quickly and strategically on plans to restrict PFAS from water systems. For Colorado, multiple areas across the state detected PFAS in the water beyond EPA limits when EPA required water systems across the nation to test for dozens of PFAS last year.

PFAS are of great public and governmental interest because of their widespread use in a variety of products, documented adverse human health and environmental effects, and ability to persist in the environment, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.” First developed in the 1940s, PFAS traditionally have been found in a wide variety of products, including food packaging, nonstick pans, clothing, furniture, and firefighting foam.

However, eliminating PFAS from the marketplace presents a significant challenge. There may be thousands of different PFAS, but data for only a small fraction are currently available to the broader scientific community, regulators, and the public. Further, PFAS can get into the supply chain during the manufacturing or distribution process so that products may become contaminated even if PFAS was not intentionally or purposefully added, raising concerns about entry points into the supply chain that are not yet fully understood. It is also possible that coatings or lubricants used on manufacturing equipment or in factories can contain PFAS, which also may transfer to the products made in such facilities.

 In this regard, Colorado’s new law, SB24-081, specifically uses the language “intentionally added PFAS” when it prohibits the presence of the chemicals in certain products.

The new ban targets the sale and distribution of products containing “intentionally added” PFAS from several industries while incorporating gradual product phaseout timelines for compliance. In 2025, outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions that contain intentionally added PFAS must be accompanied by a PFAS disclosure. In 2028, that apparel will be banned from sale and distribution within the state, along with other products, such as textile articles and food equipment for commercial settings that contain intentionally added PFAS. Other products are assigned a quicker compliance timeline, such as cookware, dental floss, menstruation products, and ski wax containing intentionally added PFAS are banned from sale and distribution in 2026. Likewise, artificial turf containing intentionally added PFAS will also be banned from installation beginning in 2026.

Water treatment districts will need to explore funding and equipment to install filtering technologies, though there are concerns about how this will affect Coloradoans’ water bills.

Undoubtedly, other states will borrow from Colorado’s approach, and industries will be tasked with untangling new PFAS laws and regulations. Taft attorneys have been at the forefront of PFAS litigation for more than two decades and have worked on issues involving these chemicals from before they were regulated to their current status as a focal point of state and federal environmental regulation. For help navigating EPA and state PFAS laws, contact a member of Taft’s Environmental group.