Home PFAS Chemicals and Housewares: Answering the Critical Questions
October 13, 2022

PFAS Chemicals and Housewares: Answering the Critical Questions

By Chandler Harvey

Managing Editor

“If your product comes into contact with food, you’re part of this,” said Fran Groesbeck, managing director of the Cookware and Bakeware Alliance, at the beginning of a panel about PFAS chemicals and housewares on Wednesday. Groesbeck noted that PFAS legislation is an important and growing issue and no longer just focuses on non-stick cookware.

Groesbeck was joined by Tobias Gerfin, CEO of Kuhn Rikon and president, European Association for Cookware, Cutlery and Flatware; and Thomas Lee, partner, Energy, Environment and Infrastructure Practice Group, Bryan, Cave, Leighton and Paisner.

What is PFAS? A group of over 14,000 chemicals, that when used, is intended to enhance or achieve the betterment of that product. As a large family of chemicals, they do not all look the same, said Groesbeck, and each group has different characteristics and risk factors to be considered. 

In light of these risk factors, new legislation is happening, and quickly. With more than 350,000 chemicals used in commerce, Groesbeck said, the regulators currently have limited means of addressing the speed at which chemicals enter the market. The result is to regulate entire classes of chemicals, as is the case in some states with PFAS.

Groesbeck discussed the two types of legislation currently being passed: “right-to-know” laws and outright bans. She believes that right-to-know laws are a good approach to a complex topic and legislation that looks to ban or prohibit PFAS is concerning as it could lead to regrettable substitutions or unintended consequences.

In both types of legislation, the definition of cookware is defined as any product that is used to prepare, dispense or store food, foodstuffs or beverages, Groesbeck stated, and newer legislation is going one step further to simply say products.

The important next steps, Groesbeck said, are:

  • Get educated on PFAS. Learn more about where it is used in your products and the manufacturing process and begin planning for the requirements of the enacted laws.
  • Remember it is beyond cookware now. This will impact many industries, from electronics to medical, but within the housewares market, any product that comes into contact with food may be included depending on legislation.
  • The complete product cycle is impacted. Some laws include where PFAS was intentionally used in the manufacturing processes; and if PFAS was intentionally added, “free” or “free-from” marketing claims are no longer acceptable in marketing the product.
  • Do something rather than nothing. Get started, do your research, ask questions, plan packaging and product changes if necessary, connect with resources to get documentation and start preparing for enacted legislation deadlines.

To stay on top of passed and pending legislation, the CBA has created a PFAS legislation tracker by state and status and industry updates offering a summary of legislation and who it impacts, what you need to know and what you need to do, said Groesbeck.

Following Groesbeck, Lee went further into the legislation being enacted. He agreed it is critically important for several industries, including housewares. While there were only two or three states beginning laws a few years ago, there are now many more in this rapidly evolving regulatory space. He noted that among the states, there is more legislation for bans than right-to-know laws.

Current enacted and proposed legislation includes California, Colorado, Washington and Michigan with notice and labeling requirements; and Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Vermont with bans and reformulation requirements.

Some legislation will go into effect as early as January 1, 2023, depending on the state, said Lee. Possible regulations include that company websites must list all intentionally added PFAS, information on labels, or prohibition of juvenile products, or products that are marketed to anyone under 12 years old, that contain “regulated PFAS.” As Groesbeck noted, it is important to know which laws will apply and when they go into effect. For more details about current legislation, see Lee’s presentation.

Concluding the session, the floor was opened up for questions. When asked a question about a specific product item, Groesbeck noted that it is not just about the regulators, but also the consumers who have been following PFAS. Gerfin added that it is also important to keep retailers in mind and ask when they will no longer accept a product with packaging that must be changed; the sooner it can be taken off the packaging, the better. He continued that retailers are beginning to crack down on PFAS, moving to be the first to show that they are being careful about regulations.

When asked what can be done to ensure the supply chain is regulated during the manufacturing and supplier process, Groesbeck suggested connecting and communicating with the suppliers who deal with chemical management. Lee proposed looking at purchase agreements to see who is responsible within the vendor agreements.

Lee said he wasn’t aware of any grace periods about deadlines and encouraged everyone to be proactive and informed.

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