By Doug Farquhar
NCSL released its summary of state environmental health legislation from the 2019 session.
State legislatures introduced 2,624 bills in 2019 related to environmental health, enacting or adopting close to 400. Legislatures in every state, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia introduced environmental health legislation, and bills were enacted in 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
Only the legislatures in Ohio and Wisconsin did not enact any bills on environmental health.
New Jersey introduced 508 pieces of legislation, the most in the nation. Its totals were followed by New York with 460 bills. Massachusetts introduced 276 bills. California was next with 155, Hawaii had 119, Minnesota had 115 and New Hampshire had 119. Wyoming and South Dakota introduced six bills, Alaska introduced four bills, and Idaho introduced the least with three regarding environmental health.
Food safety was the most popular topic, with 798 bills being introduced in every state in the nation and 148 being enacted. Labeling of plant-based or cell-based meat led to several laws being introduced and enacted on the labeling of these products.
The second most common environmental health topic for legislatures in 2019: bills regarding toxics and chemicals. Legislatures in 49 states introduced 793 bills relating to some aspect of toxics or chemical safety; 216 regarded lead hazards or lead poisoning. In 16 states, legislation regarding PFAS chemicals was introduced, with nine bills being enacted in eight states.
Several bills relating to drinking water were introduced. More than 413 bills were introduced in 43 state legislatures, with New Jersey leading the way with 77. The foremost topics included the replacements of lead-service lines and managing PFAS.
Bills on wastewater (septic systems, sewers) were popular, with 323 being introduced and 39 being enacted.
Indoor air quality, which includes issues such as mold hazards and radon, saw 385 bills introduced, and 45 enacted. Radon was the foremost topic.
States introduced 193 bills on pesticides, enacting 17 of them.
Topics such as asthma (59 introduced; 19 enacted), body art (79 introduced; 16 enacted), swimming pools (nine introduced, four enacted), and environmental health laboratories (34 introduced; 8 enacted) were less common environmental health topics legislatures addressed in 2019.
NCSL is tracking environmental health bills from the 2020 sessions. As of March 2020, state legislatures have introduced 3,526 bills in 49 state legislatures.
For more information contact Doug Farquhar or Gretchenn Dubois at NCSL.
Doug Farquhar is a program director in NCSL's Environmental Health Program.