Toxics Policies Prediction for 2016

February 22, 2016

When we strap our child into a car seat, pick up a tube of lipstick, fluff up the cushions on our couches, we’re coming in contact with chemicals from plasticizers to heavy metals to endocrine disruptors — chemicals linked to everything from early puberty to cancer. But this legislative session, states around the country are looking to change that. Safer States anticipates about half of the states in the country will propose policies in the next year to reduce exposures to untested and toxic chemicals in consumer products. These bills build on a decade of laws passed in 35 states to protect public health and the environment.

2016 bills take aim at toxic chemicals with established links to cancer, reproductive harm or developmental harm in children’s products, furniture and other consumer products. Chemicals under scrutiny include flame retardants, components of plastics, antibacterial agents like triclosan and preservatives like formaldehyde found in cosmetics. In addition, states are also moving to empower consumers with information about which chemicals are in specific products by requiring manufacturers to disclose this information to the public.

 Though our knowledge about the dangers chemicals in consumer products has improved and broadened, our federal law on chemicals is woefully out of date. The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act has never been updated to reflect new scientific understanding or our modern economy.  While Congress is currently debating an update, there is still a real and necessary role for the states. Any new federal law cannot manage the challenges of 80,000 untested and unregulated chemicals alone. States will retain their role of acting quickly on emerging threats, requiring disclosure of chemical ingredients to the public and regulating chemicals left out of any new federal law such as those in cosmetics or food packaging.

State actions on chemicals over the last decade have spurred marketplace change. Major manufacturers are removing hazardous chemicals from their product lines, and major retailers are coming up with chemical guidelines for their store shelves. Consumers are encouraged at the prospect of not needing a degree in toxicology to go to the store. Yet hundreds of dangerous chemicals continue to linger in our homes (and our bodies). And as manufacturers, retailers, and legislators look to take consumer safety to the next level, they’re looking towards the states to play the role that they have always played - the learning lab for democracy. See more about the role of states from 12 Attorneys General.

“The current swell of policy introductions makes clear that the tide is shifting on toxic chemicals,” Says Sarah Doll, director of Safer States. “States are looking upstream to ensure safer chemistries in the first place, so we avoid both initial harm and toxic legacies like that which is unfolding in Flint, Michigan.”

Highlights of 2016 state policy include:

Identification and Disclosure of Toxic Chemicals. At least 12 states will consider policy to: identify chemicals of concern; and/or require makers of consumer products to disclose chemicals of concern; and/or phase out chemicals of concern. (AK, CA, IL, ME, MA, MI, MN, NC, NY, RI, VT, WA)

Toxic Flame Retardants: At least 14 states and the District of Columbia will consider policy to phase out the use of and/or require labeling of toxic flame retardants in certain consumer products. (AK, CA, CT, DC, DE, MA, ME, MN, NC, NY, OH, RI, TN, WA, WV)

Lead: At least 10 states will consider policy to address lead in kids' products, packaging, crumb rubber, electronics and other products. (CA, IL, MA, MD, MI, MN, NJ, NY, VT, WA)

Bisphenol A: At least 8 states will consider addressing the endocrine disruptor BPA in kids' products, food packaging and other products. (MA, MD, ME, NC, NJ, NY, PA, RI)

Green Cleaning: At least 8 states will consider establishing green cleaning policies for schools, childcare facilities, and government buildings. (AZ, MA, MD, ME, NC, NJ, NY, PA)

Cadmium: At least 6 states will consider restricting cadmium in electronics, kids' products, and other products. (CA, IL, MN, NJ, NY, WA)

Formaldehyde: At least 5 states will look at restricting formaldehyde, long known as a dangerous chemical, in everything from children’s products to cosmetics. (AZ, NJ, NY, RI, SC)

Triclosan and Triclocarban: At least 3 states will consider restricting the antibacterial agents triclosan and triclocarban from personal care products. (IA, IL, NY)

Additional approaches: We also will see policies addressing safe cosmetics (including in often-unlabeled salon products), disclosure of fragrance chemicals, green procurement, mercury, and crumb rubber. 

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