PFAS Risks: Insights Into Legislation, Litigation & Supply Chain Sustainability Management


While politicians across the U.S. have been fighting to protect and clean up their constituents’ drinking water, many state legislators have been leading the charge to remove PFAS not only from drinking water, but from many products in their respective states.

The fines being levied against chemical manufacturers and downstream users for PFAS-related pollution are unlike anything ever seen before. 3M recently reached a $10-billion settlement related to water pollution involving PFAS in several U.S. cities. This is one of many lawsuits involving the company. The legal action against 3M has been so severe, the company announced it would stop producing PFAS-related products altogether, affecting over 21,000 product lines. 3M is not alone in battling PFAS-related lawsuits. Recently, DuPont de Nemours Inc., Chemours Co., and DuPont spinoff Corteva Inc. also reached a settlement related to pollution claims filed by cities and local water agencies totaling $1.2 billion.

While the U.S. states, cities, and their related agencies are involved in a large number of lawsuits against various chemical manufacturers and their customers for PFAS-related water pollution, that isn’t the whole story. States are also aggressively bringing forth legislation to restrict PFAS in many products sold within their borders.

Currently, at least 46 states have legislation in place or have some legislation proposed that impacts PFAS. State legislation initially focused on processes that could affect drinking water, but are increasingly being applied to restrict PFAS use in a wide range of products, including cookware, food packaging, apparel, rugs, cosmetics, and children’s products. However, several states, led by Maine and Minnesota, are beginning to legislate registration and labeling requirements for PFAS-containing products.

With these types of requirements coming into place in some states, suppliers and manufacturers could end up having to scramble to identify and remove PFAS from their supply chains or face heavy fines and/or litigation similar to companies dealing with citizen-enforced Proposition 65 in California.

Get Collecting

With such a vast amount of PFAS data needed to comply with state laws, how does a supplier, manufacturer, or distributor stay on top of meeting these various legal requirements?

Firstly, companies need to understand where PFAS are in their supply chains. We're not just talking raw chemicals but finished parts and products as well. Not just mixtures like stain repellent or tent sealers, but we're also talking washing machines, refrigerators, televisions, vacuum cleaners, and microwave ovens, to name a few.

Overall, companies are looking at roughly 3,000 different PFAS substances at the state level. To put how big a task managing PFAS risk is into perspective, California’s Proposition 65 currently lists roughly 1,000 chemicals.

Sure, your design engineers might know of specific gaskets or o-rings that contain PFAS, but what about all the other potential parts? How do you identify your risk? How do you mitigate that risk? The answer: you've got to start asking your supply chain (and educating your supply chain) about where they may likely have PFAS.

Bruce Jarnot

Bruce Jarnot is a Regulatory and Sustainability Expert for Product Sustainability at Assent. Learn more about Assent’s solutions for managing PFAS in supply chains here.


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