By Sarah Doll, National Director for Safer States
Despite intense industry opposition and Congressional inaction, state governments continue to defend the vulnerable from toxic chemical exposure.
Each year, state legislatures continue to prove that they are the leaders in protecting public health from toxic chemicals. In the past ten years, 19 states have adopted more than 93 chemical safety policies and this year, they are looking to make more change.
In 2013, we expect at least 26 states to consider legislation and policy changes that will:
- Restrict or label the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in receipts, children's products and food packaging.
- Require removal of certain toxic flame retardants from children's products, home furniture or building materials.
- Change disclosure rules so that concerned consumers will have a way to identify toxic chemicals in products.
- Encourage manufacturers to remove identified toxic chemicals in favor of safer alternatives.
- Ban cadmium, a dangerous, persistent metal that is often found in inexpensive children's jewelry.
- Ban formaldehyde from cosmetics and children's products.
- Promote green cleaning products in schools.
We have seen that state laws snowball into changes in national toxic chemical policy. In 2012, so many states had passed laws banning BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups that manufacturers gave up their fierce battle against bans and removed the toxic chemical from all such products nationwide.
We are now looking to effect the same change with more toxic chemicals and more products. And although it's early in the year, we're already seeing momentum toward increased BPA oversight in Suffolk County, New York and Maine (more info).
But the fight will continue to be tough. Every step of the way, the Safer States coalition has been, and will continue to be, met with tough opposition from the chemical industry, which is backed by billions of dollars in influence. "The chemical lobby, just like the tobacco industry before it, has impeded serious regulation and is even trying to block research," said Nick Kristof this week in a New York Times article which discusses chemicals that may be contributing to obesity.
One focus of state legislatures will be Tris flame retardants, which are probable carcinogens and found in products made of foam, including baby sleep products and couches. The chemical has become infamous because of the chemical industry's intense misinformation campaign uncovered last year by the Chicago Tribune.
Every legislative session, I hear stories from coalition partners about opposition lobbyists who make backroom deals with legislators, spread misinformation about toxic chemical effects and threaten economic impacts that have never come to fruition.
That is why I am proud that states continue to fight, and continue to pass laws and policies which lighten the toxic chemical burden that our families, loved ones and community carry.
Highlights of state legislation in 2013 include:
Bans on Toxic Flame Retardants. At least 15 state legislatures will consider policies to phase out the use of toxic flame retardants, including chlorinated Tris in consumer products such as children's products and home furniture. States considering policies to restrict exposure to toxic flame retardants include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin.
Identification and Disclosure of Chemicals Harmful to Children. At least 14 states, including Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington will consider policy to identify chemicals of concern for children's health and require makers of consumer products to disclose their use of the chemicals. Many of these bills and rule changes include provisions to encourage manufacturers to identify and use safer alternatives in their products.
BPA Phase Outs. At least 15 states will consider policy to restrict or label the use of the hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in infant formula cans, food packagingespecially for babiesand receipt paper, including Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah are all states that will consider such legislation.
Laws need to continue to be passed in the states because the federal handling of toxic chemicals is so flawed. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)—the law that "oversees" toxic chemical regulation nationally—is now 37 years old, and it does not even require basic health and safety data on chemicals before they are used in products.
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced an overhaul to TSCA in 2011, but the bill failed to pass and is expected to be re-introduced in 2013. The Safe Chemicals Act is supported by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, which is made up of over 450 groups, including American Nurses Association, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the Breast Cancer Fund. However, opposition from the American Chemistry Council in particular has so far succeeded in obstructing passage.
"Unfortunately, the American Chemistry Council has engaged in a campaign of intimidation and double speak at the national level that would make the tobacco industry blush," said Andy Igrejas of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. "As long as tobacco-style attack politics hold sway in Washington, state legislatures are the only folks with the power to step up and protect public health."
The Safer States Coalition, made up of groups of environmental advocates, physicians, nurses, parents, and concerned citizens looks forward to a successful 2013—a year that we hope will continue the pattern of more disclosure of toxic chemicals, and more consideration of safer alternatives in our everyday products.
About the author: Sarah Doll, mother of an adorable four-year old, is the national director of SAFER states, a coalition of state-based organizations championing solutions to protect public health and communities from toxic chemicals.
Comments on this post
I can only say thank you to these states. My believe is that the increase of Autism and many other "unexplained" mental conditions, obesity issues as well as the ever increasing number of cancer patients are all caused by the unregulated plastics in our food chain. It is so very hard to live plastic free, and many of my friends think I am nuts by using only glass containers in the microwave.
Artificial radiation should also be a consideration in this effort. Please review the documentary Resonance - beings of frequency. Europe is "mobilizing" on this issue and the research findings are compelling.
The Safe Chemicals Act will bring oversight and a modern day legal framework to assist us in having safer product. Until then, it is imperative that we make smart choices such as avoiding the plastics and lawn chemicals and purchasing or making our own only basic, known safe shampoos, detergents and household cleaners-- Opt for only UNSCENTED as perfumes/fragrances are not required to being tested and they contain many toxic chemicals that can cause asthma, cancer and Endocrine Disruption. Avoid air fresheners as well-- even the "green" ones. And, know that essential oils are not necessarily safe.
I am so excited California is one of the states to consider banning toxic fire retardants. There are so many toxic products in every aspect of our daily lives that it's scary. Educating people is the first step to change in fight for our and our children's health.
Thank you, Safer States, for taking the lead to achieve these considerations.
People are simply unaware (or, if in the industry often uncaring) about the chemical burden all of us carry in our bodies.
One set of effects not mentioned so far--the cognitive disabilities and deficiencies that occur as a result of in utero exposures to toxic chemicals.
WILL WE EVER LEARN? And of course, the Commonwealth of Virginia lags behind. Too many of our current legislators care about having “zygote police” but don’t give a darn about environmental effects on anyone—born or unborn!!!
God is good!!!!!!!!!!!There is Hope!!!! Having suffered from MCS or Enviromental illness and toxic chemical poisoning for 27 years, where you couldn't find cotton clothes anywhere, to taking baby steps to seeing awareness, and now steps taken and enforced on these dangerous chemicals. I look forward to the day where getting a new couch or furniture will not poison me or my family and that things such as fragrances will be banned the same way cigarettes are banned in public areas. Come on Kansas..get with it and get on board.
Woo hoo! Yay! Maybe we can get all cotton and wool mattresses for affordable prices without all the chemicals soon? This is very good news!
Can someone please take action to ban air "fresheners" in public bathrooms?
People with MCS and allergies have become a sub-class of people who can't use bathrooms in public! MCS is a disability for purposes of Social Security Disability. This is an ADA issue. I had actually called the Department of Justice about this and was told that they "weren't interested in that."
Any suggestions for helping this along would be welcome!
This is indeed good news. I hope they advocate a ban on formaldehyde in flooring materials and other building materials, too, and not just children's items. I am amazed that, for once, Illinois is doing the right thing.