PFAS In Apparel Law
Prohibitions Against the Use of PFAS in Apparel and Outdoor Apparel for Severe Wet Conditions
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of chemicals that have been widely used in many products to provide stain resistance, water and oil repellency, and other properties. PFAS do not occur naturally, and some PFAS have been found to persist in the environment for long periods of time. Further, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (link leaves DEC's website), scientific studies have shown that exposure to some PFAS in the environment may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals.
The state has been considering ways to reduce the presence of these long-lasting chemicals in the environment. One such approach is to prevent PFAS from being put into consumer products in the first place. New York has used this prevention approach in several instances, including in the recent enactment of a law restricting PFAS in apparel and outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions under section 37-0121 (link leaves DEC's website) of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL). The restrictions will be phased in over several years, as further described below.
Prohibition on intentionally added PFAS in apparel (effective 1/1/2025)
The restriction of PFAS in apparel applies specifically to apparel with intentionally added PFAS, as described in section 37-0121 of the ECL. According to that provision, no person shall sell or offer for sale in this state any new, not previously used, apparel containing PFAS as intentionally added chemicals after January 1, 2025.
Prohibition on intentionally added PFAS in outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions (effective 1/1/2028)
After January 1, 2028, a new restriction will go into effect that applies specifically to outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions with intentionally added PFAS, as described in section 37-0121 (link leaves DEC's website) of the ECL. According to that provision, no person shall sell or offer for sale in this state any new, not previously used, outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances: (a) at or above a level that the department shall establish in regulation, or (b) as intentionally added chemicals.
Definition of PFAS and intentionally added chemical
Under the law, PFAS are defined as "a class of fluorinated organic chemicals containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom." Additionally, the term "intentionally added chemical" means "a chemical in a product that serves an intended function or technical effect in the product or product component, including the PFAS within intentionally added chemicals and PFAS that are intentional breakdown products of an added chemical that also have a functional or technical effect in the product or product component."
Manufacturers have control over the raw materials that they use, and the Department is encouraging manufacturers to avoid PFAS contamination in their production processes since they contribute to PFAS content in the final product.
Types of apparel covered by the law
Apparel covered by the law includes clothing items intended for regular wear or formal occasions including, but not limited to, undergarments, shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, overalls, bodysuits, vests, dancewear, suits, saris, scarves, tops, leggings, leisurewear, formal wear, outdoor apparel*, onesies, bibs, and diapers.
* The term "outdoor apparel" includes clothing items intended primarily for outdoor activities, including but not limited to, hiking, camping, skiing, climbing, bicycling, and fishing. The "outdoor apparel" definition does not include professional uniforms that are worn to protect the wearer from health or environmental hazards, including personal protective equipment, or "outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions", which is defined separately (see below).
"Outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions" includes outdoor apparel that are extreme and extended use products designed for outdoor sports experts for applications that provide protection against extended exposure to extreme rain conditions or against extended immersion in water or wet conditions, such as from snow, to protect the health and safety of the user and that are not marketed for general consumer use.
A compliance certification is a written statement that can be used to document compliance with a law. In the case of the PFAS in apparel law, such certifications can be used to confirm that apparel or outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions do not contain PFAS.
The compliance certification provisions in ECL 37-0121 apply to anyone who sells or offers for sale apparel or outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions. Persons selling these items are encouraged to obtain compliance certifications from their manufacturer, as defined in ECL 37-0121, to demonstrate that their apparel or outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions is compliant with ECL 37-0121. The compliance certification must state that the specified apparel or outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions complies with ECL 37-0121 and must be signed by an authorized official of the manufacturing company.
Compliance certifications should be maintained on-site where new apparel and/or outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions is being sold or offered for sale. Certifications do not need to be sent to DEC; however, the certifications must be made available to the DEC upon request.
Ensuring compliance with the law
The best source of information on whether apparel covered by this law contains intentionally added PFAS is likely to be the manufacturer or supplier of these items. To ensure compliance with the law when the prohibition takes effect on January 1, 2025, DEC recommends that retailers purchasing apparel or outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions for sale consult with the manufacturer or supplier as soon as possible to confirm that PFAS is not intentionally added to the product.
Several major manufacturers and retailers have eliminated or committed to eliminating PFAS in their apparel and outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions. The following resources will help in finding alternatives to apparel with intentionally added PFAS:
The following links leave DEC's website:
PFAS-Free Products - PFAS Central - A webpage that links to the websites for many major brands that have already eliminated PFAS in their product offerings.
Chemicals and Health: NYS PFAS Exposure and Health Projects - A webpage developed by New York State Department of Health that offers information related to their work to evaluate the health effects of PFAS exposure.