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Persistent Pollutants

Colorado bans PFAS in oil- and gas-extraction products

State also prohibits sale of cosmetics, food packaging, and other items with these chemicals added intentionally

by Cheryl Hogue
June 6, 2022

A drilling platform near Grand Junction, Colorado, with mountains in the background.
Credit: Shutterstock
Starting in 2024, drilling operations in Colorado, such as this platform near Grand Junction, will have to switch to fluids free of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Colorado has become the first US state to ban per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in products used in drilling for oil and gas.

A measure signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D) June 3 prohibits the sale or distribution of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, drilling fluids, and proppants—materials injected to keep geologic fractures open—that contain PFAS. The law also bans a number of other items when they contain intentionally added PFAS: cosmetics; food packaging; carpets and rugs; upholstered furniture; and products, including car seats, designed for children under age 12.

The ban takes effect Jan. 1, 2024.

PFAS are highly persistent industrial chemicals that are widely used in a variety of applications to provide stain and water resistance. These sturdy molecules also resist heat and other adverse conditions without breaking down. Some PFAS are toxic, linked to liver and kidney damage.

In addition, PFAS taint drinking water supplies across the world. They are found in the blood of almost all US residents.

The Colorado General Assembly passed the legislation with bipartisan support. The measure states that PFAS “are not necessary in many products and could be replaced with less harmful chemicals or technologies.”

“This new law comes at a time when the state is suffering through historic drought and cannot afford to lose water to chemical contamination. It’s good to see legislation aimed at protecting this precious resource from toxic forever chemicals,” Emily Rogers of the US Public Interest Research Group, an advocacy organization, tells C&EN in an email.

In addition to the sales ban, the law also requires that when firefighting foams with PFAS are used, the foams are fully contained then properly collected and stored. The used foams are to be stored until the US Environmental Protection Agency publishes guidance on disposal and destruction of the foams, the laws says.

Colorado’s ban on PFAS includes an explicit exclusion. It allows continued use of hydrofluoroolefins that are used as propellants in cosmetics and in fabric treatments.



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