Green Building, Maintenance and Operations, Safety, Sustainability/Business Continuity

U.S. Government Works to Ban ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Federal Buildings

In a move aimed at better protecting the health of custodial staff, federal employees, and the environment, the Biden administration is directing government contractors to purchase cleaning products for federal buildings that are free of toxic “forever chemicals.”

This change is the result of a collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to implement President Joe Biden’s Federal Sustainability Plan, which directs federal agencies to prioritize the purchase of sustainable products and services, including products without added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals.”

The change is reflected in the GSA’s custodial specification. Contractors will be required to use products certified to ecolabels such as the EPA’s Safer Choice, which meet strict criteria for human health and the environment by using effective, safer chemical alternatives, as well as certain Green Seal certifications.

“Everyone deserves protection from the harmful effects of forever chemicals, including the workers who use cleaning products, federal employees, and those who visit government buildings every day,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

As the largest single buyer of goods and services in the world, the federal government can play a big role in helping reduce PFAS through its purchasing,” added GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan.

Currently, the GSA’s Public Building Service has more than 600 contracts for custodial services at more than 1,500 U.S. government-owned buildings at a cost of more than $400 million per year and expects that most of these contracts will include the new specifications within five years.

The updated specification requires that contractors use cleaners and hand soaps that are certified to the EPA Safer Choice, Green Seal GS-37, Green Seal GS-41, or Green Seal GS-53 certifications, which do not allow intentionally added PFAS in product formulations. This is in addition to meeting federal statutory requirements, including the minimum bio-based content requirement set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program.


To assist federal buyers, program managers, and vendors working with federal agencies, the EPA and GSA collaborated on several steps to make it easier to identify and buy products, such as cleaning products, that do not contain PFAS, including:

  • The GSA’s SFTool (Sustainable Facilities Tool) Product Search has a “PFAS Addressed” filter to browse for products certified to ecolabels and standards that are required for use in federal purchasing.
  • The GSA’s Advantage shopping and ordering website is now enhanced to make it easier to find products that are Safer Choice certified.
  • The EPA’s Safer Choice Program is offering a webinar on April 9, 2024, from 2-3 p.m. ET, on how updates to federal purchasing and GSA Advantage provide further incentives for businesses to acquire and maintain Safer Choice certification for their products, as well as how product manufacturers can feature their product benefits in GSA Advantage. Product manufacturers and purchasers are encouraged to attend.

To learn more about creating safe and healthy workplaces, make sure to sign up for Facilities Management Advisor’s FM NOW: Healthy Buildings virtual event happening on April 24th! Details and FREE registration are available here.

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