California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed AB 1817 into law, adding to the growing list of state legislation restricting the use of PFAS substances in a variety of consumer products.
As of January 1, 2025, AB 1817 prohibits the manufacture, distribution, sale, or offer for sale in the state of “any new, not previously used, textile articles that contain regulated” PFAS substances.
AB 1817 defines “textiles articles” as “textile goods of a type customarily and ordinarily used in households and businesses, and include, but are not limited to, apparel, accessories, handbags, backpacks, draperies, shower curtains, furnishings, upholstery, beddings, towels, napkins, and tablecloths.”
The law exempts:
- PPE or clothing items for exclusive use by the US military
- Carpets and rugs, and carpet and rug treatments (as these are already regulated under the California Safer Consumer Products regulation)
- Vehicles and vehicle components, including aircraft
- Boats and vessels, including covers
- Certain chemical, pharma, and environmental technologies
- Stadium shades and architectural fabric structures
It also contains a carve out for “outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions,” pushing the compliance date to January 1, 2028. But as of January 1, 2025, these products must be labeled with a “legible and easily discernable disclosure” stating “Made with PFAS chemicals.”
The law applies to all “regulated” PFAS substances, which are defined as PFAS substances that are “intentionally added to a product and that have a functional or technical effect,” including PFAS that are intentional breakdown products of an added chemical with a functional or technical effect.
AB 1817 does not contain an independent enforcement scheme, such as civil or criminal penalties, and it does not authorize a state agency to promulgate implementing regulations (which often include administrative enforcement provisions).
In the absence of specific enforcement provisions, we would expect public enforcers (the California Attorney General and district or city attorneys) to enforce AB 1817 through California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Public enforcers can seek civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation and injunctive relief. The Attorney General and district attorneys have a track record of working together to enforce environmental laws in the state.
Private plaintiffs may also seek to enforce AB 1817 through the UCL and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), typically through consumer class actions. The general structure of claims could be that consumers would not have paid what they did had they known the product contained PFAS; that the products are unsafe because they contain PFAS; or, in the event a seller makes sustainability claims in connection with products, such claims are false because the products contain PFAS. Class actions brought under these theories typically seek damages (only under the CLRA), restitution, injunction, and attorneys’ fees.