Environmental safety regulations are in the works in a dozen states
More than a half-dozen states banned per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), compounds found in consumer goods that have been connected to environmental damage and health problems. Maine is leading the charge as the first state to implement a widespread ban on PFAS in all products this year.
Effective as of Jan. 1, 2023, the first phase of Maine’s PFAS ban requires that the hazardous chemical be discontinued from rug and fabric treatments. Unless their use is unavoidable, PFAS will be eliminated from all clothing, cookware, packaging, and furniture manufacturing in Maine by 2030.
PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” do not easily break down and cause toxic buildup in soil and waterways. The EPA linked 1,4-dioxane – a type of PFAS found in detergents – to cancer, leading New York to outlaw this carcinogenic substance. California also placed restrictions on PFAS and is requiring cookware manufacturers to disclose if their products contain noxious chemicals, such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
Public utilities in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island must test water for PFOA and other PFAS and treat it if it exceeds appropriate thresholds. Colorado, Hawaii, and Vermont have banned other use cases of PFAS to combat environmental degradation.
Eight states join the data privacy race
Legislators in New York, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Oregon have filed privacy bills. If enacted, 13 total states will have broad privacy laws, indicating a growing trend to protect consumers’ personal information and privacy rights.
Currently, there is no comprehensive federal privacy law, leaving it up to the states to enact their own rules and regulations. This patchwork approach carries compliance and liability risks. Organizations that do business at a national level may encounter difficulties in complying with each state’s privacy law, especially if new legislation significantly deviates from the five state privacy laws already in place.
The pending privacy bills overlap but also have differing provisions. New York’s proposed privacy bill would allow consumers to examine automated choices that affect their housing, health care, insurance, and other services. Other states are looking to address more specific privacy issues, including biometric data, reproductive health, and age-appropriate design code.
Building on momentum from 2022, legislators in Indiana and Iowa are reintroducing privacy bills that stalled during last year’s session, with amendments to boost the chances of their becoming law. More states are likely to draft their own privacy bills in 2023.
Gender-related developments take center stage in 27 states
In the 2022 – 2023 legislative cycle, conservative lawmakers have written nearly 100 bills in 27 states that aim to limit or ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, creating a cascade of lawsuits from LGBTQ+ rights groups that have filed discrimination claims.
LGBTQ+ advocates point out that the bills are inherently discriminatory because the same therapies and interventions used during gender-affirming care are available to children with other medical conditions, such as precocious puberty and intersexuality. Republicans contend that minors are not developed enough to make informed decisions on the risks of gender-affirming treatment; however, trans-allied groups note that a young person’s parents or guardian are the ones consenting to care.
This year, 21 states introduced measures that impose civil fines, embargoes, and medical license revocation on those who offer gender-affirming services. In 11 states, medical providers and parents could face criminal charges, with Oklahoma imposing the harshest penalty: a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine up to $100,000.