First developed in the 1950s, PFAs (or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl) have chemical properties that enable them to provide products with oil- and water-repellent, flame-retardant or anti-shrinking performances. Described as “forever chemicals “, they pose a risk to ecosystems and human health, depending on the duration and level of exposure, even at very low levels. This is because the carbon-fluorine bonds that make them up are among the strongest chemical bonds. Therefore, they resist degradation and persist in nature. New York State has decided to ban PFAs starting in late 2023.
Which criteria are taken into consideration?
The presence of intentionally added PFAs is covered by the ban. The aim of the Environment Protection Agency is to bring PFA levels as close to zero as possible. However, it is still possible for PFAs to be detected as a result of unintentional use in material flows, as traces may persist in water and air, for example.
Who does it apply to?
All the retailers of clothing, shoes and accessories in New York State are concerned.
What are the potential penalties?
A fine of $1,000/day is applicable for any identified infraction. Penalties will rise to $2,500/day for any repeat offence.
When will the PFA ban come into force?
There are two key dates for the implementation:
- 1st January 2025 for apparel other than professional clothing
- 1st January 2028 for high-performance outerwear exposed to extreme humidity.
How to get ready for it?
You need to communicate these requirements and application deadlines to your suppliers, in order to bring products into compliance. Particular attention should be paid to stain-resistant, waterproof, quick-drying or products with a membrane, which may contain PFAs. It will be necessary to ask your suppliers for material data sheets and/or proof, such as test results, that PFAs are not present in materials or chemical formulations.
Some certifications, such as OEKO-TEX®, now prohibit the use of these substances in textiles, leather and footwear for Standard 100, Leather Standard and EcoPassport certifications, thus identifying safe products. The restricted substances list of the version 3.0 of the ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) has also excluded all PFAs. As for the Bluesign® Finder service, it can already identify 150 safe chemical alternatives.
The conditions specified here apply to New York State only. To date, no federal alignment is planned. However, other states have also implemented a framework for these substances. These include California, Washington, Maine, Minnesota and Colorado.