States in the Lead

Active Toxics Legislation Tracker

Month by month, year by year, the states are making progress and protecting children and families from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals.

They do this through bans on the worst-of-the-worst chemicals, through laws requiring disclosure of harmful chemicals, and through policies encouraging the phase-out of toxic chemicals for safer alternatives.

You can read stories below about the great work the states are doing. If you're interested in a particular partner state, select the state name along the right-hand side.

And to see a detailed list of the laws that are up for consideration this year, click through to our Active Toxics Legislation page.

State experts warn: Proposed “Chemicals in Commerce Act” would wipe out public health progress.

Feb 28, 2014    Bookmark and Share


According to state advocates, chemical industry interests are reaching deep into their well-documented bag of tricks with the draft “Chemicals In Commerce Act” released by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) this week.

State experts see the draft as a vehicle for more secrets, more safety data loopholes, and faster introduction of untested chemicals—all disguised as “reform” of a badly outdated 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act.

Of great concern are the measures to undermine and block state action. As the bill is designed, once EPA takes action of any kind, it would effectively hamstring and sideline state leaders, offering no possibility for states to contribute to health protective chemical policy.

“Ask any of nearly three-dozen states who are working to protect citizens from toxic chemicals: the chemical industry uses twisted rhetoric and cozy inside politics to protect its interests,” says Sarah Doll. “This draft bill is no different. They call it transparency and safety. We call it secrecy and health risks.”

Rep. Shimkus plans to hold hearings in March towards a markup of the bill in April. Safer States encourages state experts and citizens to contact their legislators and make sure our elected officials know the critical contributions of state action to protect public health.

The following summary is based on analysis by Mike Belliveau and the Environmental Health Strategy Center:

Under the Chemicals In Commerce Act:

States would be blindfolded. Today, states like Washington, Maine and California are working in various ways to better understand where, when and why toxic chemicals are in products, and whether safer alternatives are possible. This work would be wiped out. Once the EPA takes action on a chemical, they would hold all reins on data. States could no longer require companies to share information with the public or with state authorities.

State experts would be ignored. Some of the best innovations to protect people from toxic chemicals began as state efforts. For example, state action to restrict toxic brominated flame-retardants eventually led to a national phase-out. Under this law, EPA would have to act alone on tens of thousands of chemicals. And once EPA takes action, it would shut down any state efforts to invent, test or contribute new ideas for chemical regulation.

Money would trump health. Under this proposal, EPA would consider costs right along with health risk. In other words, if a chemical threatens public health but is expensive to replace, EPA might not restrict its use. And once EPA classifies a chemical as low priority, no state can take action, either.

Science would be stuck in the past. The bill would reach back in history to look at actions EPA has taken. If EPA ever made a rule on a chemical—even if it was a weak, narrow or voluntary rule based on science from 37 years ago---then any and all state actions on that chemical would be wiped out immediately. EPA wouldn’t even have a chance to reconsider its rule before state laws are erased.

Old toxic products get a free pass. Today state and federal governments partner with manufacturers to safely dispose of products proven to create human health risks. These programs help keep toxics like heavy metals out of our air and water. Under this proposal, no manufacturer or chemical company could be required to contribute financially to such a program.

No conversation allowed. The law would make sure that, once EPA acts, the lockdown on state action is complete and ironclad. There would be no exceptions or exemptions that could allow state action, no matter what happens in the future.

For more expert evaluations of the proposed bill, see statements from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and The Center for Environmental Health.

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families: House Chemical Bill Fails to Protect Public from Toxic Chemicals

Center for Environmental Health: Health Watchdog Warns: Chemical “Reform” Bill Would Put Americans at Greater Risk from Harmful Chemicals

At Least 33 States to Consider Toxics Policies in 2014

Jan 28, 2014    Bookmark and Share

2014 State Legislation

Thank goodness for states.

This year, at least 33 states—more than half the nation—will step up as defenders of public health. They will take the toxic bull by the horns and consider policies addressing the untested and toxic chemicals in everyday products.

Here's the bull: Toys, clothes, bedding, baby shampoo—all can contain chemicals toxic to the brain and body. We've known for years that the federal law meant to protect us (the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act) is outdated, allowing untested chemicals and known carcinogens, hormone disruptors, heavy metals and other toxics into the products we use every day.

Although Congress has failed to fix the law, states have established over 200 policies in the last ten years to protect people from hazardous chemicals in consumer products.

2014 is proving to continue this tradition of protection: at least 33 states are considering policies. Some would change disclosure rules for manufacturers, so that concerned consumers will know what chemicals are in their products. Some would phase out the use of chemicals like bisphenol A, formaldehyde and toxic flame retardants. And just a few weeks into some sessions, momentum is strong—like in Washington State, where a bill is already moving to restrict certain flame retardants.

But in state legislatures, taking action really can be like facing down a raging bull. In addition to dangerous chemicals, advocates and legislators have to take on the muscle behind them: the chemical industry which has taken an aggressive approach, spending millions on lobbying campaigns to crush state initiatives.

Hearing rooms will be packed with doctors, nurses, toxicologists, public health officials and parents all testifying to protect kids from toxic chemicals. And on the opposing side, there'll be the chemical industry. Testimony seldom varies: they'll downplay real dangers, gloss over opportunities to build a greener economy, throw out red herrings and do all they can to protect the status quo. And behind the scenes, out-of-state chemical industry checks will fill campaign coffers.

So it's truly a patriotic moment when lawmakers reach across the aisle and pass a law to protect their people. And it happens: most of the several hundred state toxics policies passed with broad bipartisan support, and bills were signed into law by both Republican and Democratic governors.

As New York State Senator Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) said: "It's a 21st century reality: we have the American ingenuity to identify and eliminate hazardous chemicals in consumer products. It's the responsible thing to do for our marketplace, our children and our future."

This wave of action, combined with consumer demand, has ripple effects far beyond state boundaries. The laws send a clear message to manufacturers and retailers alike: consumers want to shop with confidence that products are toxic-free. Wal-Mart, Target, Johnson & Johnson—all have pledged action to remove certain toxics from their shelves and their formulas. Soon we'll see that products can be plentiful and profitable—even without the toxics.

And here at Safer States, we'll be watching those state bills to make sure our elected officials are held accountable.

Highlights of 2014 state policy include:

Identification and Disclosure of Chemicals Harmful to Children. At least eleven states including Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Vermont will consider policy to identify chemicals of concern and require makers of consumer products to disclose their use of chemicals. Some of these policies will include provisions to encourage manufacturers to identify and use safer alternatives in their products.

Bans on Formaldehyde. At least six states will consider policy to restrict formaldehyde (classified as a probable carcinogen) in children's personal care products. Policies are expected in Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, New York and Tennessee.

Bans on Toxic Flame Retardants. At least six states will consider policy to phase out the use of toxic flame retardants, including chlorinated Tris, in consumer products. States that will consider restrictions include Alaska, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York and Washington.

Restrictions on Bisphenol A. At least eleven states will consider policy to restrict or label the use of the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) in infant formula cans, food packaging, and receipt paper, including Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

At least seven states will consider policies that restrict phthalates, lead and/or cadmium in children's products, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York.

Additional approaches: At least five states will focus on using less toxic cleaning supplies in schools (Arizona, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Tennessee), and at least six other states will consider restrictions on mercury (Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Washington, Wisconsin). Other approaches include safe cosmetics (Massachusetts, New York, Vermont) and more that are yet to be determined (Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, South Carolina)

Press release: States Grapple With Toxics Where Federal Action Fails (PDF)

The Market is Moving!

Oct 16, 2013    Bookmark and Share

Shopping woman

Target Joins the List of Retailers Listening to State Policy and Addressing Toxic Chemicals.

Another week, and another retailer announces a new policy to address toxic chemicals in consumer products! This time it’s Target.

The Minneapolis-based retailer announced it is adopting the “Target Sustainable Product Standard”. The standard will be used to rank products according to several factors — including the toxic chemicals they contain. More sustainable products will be “rewarded with program incentives.”

There are several uncertainties about the program that must be clarified, including what the “program incentives” are, whether the policy will actually eliminate harmful chemicals from store shelves, and whether consumers will have enough information to make healthy purchasing decisions.

That said, we are excited about what this step signals. The announcement singles out “chemicals with high level health concern” which look familiar to us — because they include chemicals on lists developed by both California and Washington state, thanks to their strong state-level policy. These are chemicals identified by the state as a concern for health and, according to Target’s new policy, ones the retailer might not want in their stores.

“Target’s policy is a great example of how state laws help transform the marketplace and guide companies to safer products,” said Sarah Doll, National Director with Safer States. “States are saying ‘these are the chemicals we’re concerned about’ and companies are starting to listen.”

But states aren’t just listing chemicals; they’re requiring companies to take action too. If a company’s product contains a chemical on one of these lists, state law requires companies to label or report that their products contain the chemical.

“It’s probably no accident that Target chose these carefully researched chemical lists rather than its own industry-decided version. No company likes having to report to consumers that one of their products contains a toxic chemical. Complying with regulation is good for business. Without legal requirements to report or label products, companies might not be taking the issue so seriously,” Doll says.

Here at Safer States we’re thrilled to see state laws having an impact on the marketplace. Announcements like this underscore that they provide strong incentives for companies to do the right thing. In the legislative halls, on the ground, and in the store aisles — together, we’re all moving forward.

Walmart Jewelry Found To Contain High Levels of Lead

Oct 3, 2013    Bookmark and Share

One of the Walmart pieces of jewelry found to have high levels of lead.

When you buy your kid a sparkly new necklace, you should only have to worry about whether they'll like the style. But it turns out you need to be worried about something else—toxic metals.

We are disappointed to learn today that a new investigation uncovered nearly 25% of Walmart jewelry tested contained high levels of lead. As we all know, this isn't safe. Lead is a toxin that adversely affects brain development in children and affects the nervous system. It's one of the worst-of-the-worst chemicals: it builds up in humans and the environment, it does great harm, and it stays around for a very long time.

Our partner Washington Toxics Coalition tested 24 jewelry products purchased at a Washington state Walmart store, and found eight of them contained high levels of lead. Six of the items tested contained more than 10% lead (100,000 ppm), with one containing almost 36% lead (357,770 ppm). This is over one thousand times the federal standard for lead in children's products (100 ppm)

This jewelry apparently doesn't violate the law because Walmart has labeled the jewelry as not intended for children. But this doesn't mean that it doesn't end up in kids' hands or mouths. The jewelry tested had designs that would easily appeal to children, and were hung on low display racks that are easily reached by children. And really, do any of us need lead in our jewelry? Mothers know that children often grab and suck on mother's necklaces or bracelets. Lead has no business in any jewelry.

And beyond the concern for consumers, workers who stock shelves, unload shipments, and run the registers at Walmart are all coming into contact with these products that contain high levels of lead.

"I'm concerned about the impact this lead exposure is having on my fellow associates and me, not to mention all of the families who shop at Walmart," Esmeralda Uvalle, OUR Walmart member and 10-year associate with the Mt.Vernon, WA Supercenter.

This finding is especially disappointing on the heels of Walmart's widely reported declaration a few weeks ago that it would be phasing out 10 (unnamed) toxic chemicals from its store's shelves. As this testing shows, there is a long road ahead, and we hope that Walmart will take immediate steps to remove these products from the shelves.

"Walmart should act swiftly to get the lead out of all the jewelry it sells," said Sarah Doll, National Director of Safer States. "This is a great example of why we need smart state and federal laws which ensure corporations do the right thing and get harmful chemicals out of products."

States Victorious On Chemicals Despite Massive Chemical Industry Opposition

Sep 26, 2013    Bookmark and Share

Maine Statehouse

Advocating for safer chemicals in the states can be a tough fight. Often states are up against big money, opponents who don't play fair, and messy politics. But we are still winning. In fact, policies that protect communities from toxic chemicals have been enacted in over 34 states. And those wins have led to protections well beyond the borders of those states.

A few weeks ago, the Center for Pubic Integrity released a jaw-dropping report on the American Chemistry Council's lobbying activities in the states. Backed by a $100 million annual budget, the chemical industry's lobby had their fingers in just about every state legislature considering policy to regulate toxic chemicals this year.

So yes, there can be big money against us, which can make for a harrowing path to victory at times. But states, backed by consumer demand, are continuing to win. Here are some recent highlights from the states:

These victories, some small and some big, are creating a safer world. They require companies to stop using harmful chemicals. And they send a message to the marketplace that toxic chemicals aren't welcome, no matter how much industry pushes—and it's a message companies are starting to hear.

As we've seen before, wins in one state can encourage other states to adopt their own versions of these policies. And once there is a critical mass of state victories, the federal government starts to take notice and take action. We wouldn't have a federal phase out of Deca-BDE flame retardants, or a FDA ban on BPA in baby bottles, without strong precedents from the states.

Of course state health advocates have lost state legislative fights this year too. But those states are coming back in 2014 stronger than ever, determined to protect public health. Ultimately, the state drumbeat, backed by citizen demand, will drown out ACC and their allies, and we'll have safer chemicals for our kids and our world.

Wal-Mart Responds to Consumer Demand

Sep 18, 2013    Bookmark and Share

Shopping woman

“Wow!” That’s the first word that came to mind at Safer States when we heard last week’s news that Wal-Mart is adopting a new chemicals policy—one that includes phasing out 10 toxic chemicals from its products, from personal care products to household cleaners.

Our second thought was: “It’s about time!” Millions of consumers have been demanding safer products for years. With Wal-Mart’s size and market share, the adoption of a comprehensive plan to make and sell safer products was long overdue.

In addition to the 10 chemical phase-outs, Walmart’s policy reportedly will require suppliers to disclose online the chemicals in their products, and adopt new guidelines to help companies avoid replacing one toxic chemical with another.

With this announcement, Wal-Mart joins a growing list of retailers working to eliminate harmful chemicals from their products. After years of wrongly thinking toxic-free products were only for “granola mommies,” retailers are realizing safer products are a growing concern of everyday Americans.

Many companies are getting smarter and responding to the powerful force of consumer demand and stronger state laws. We’ve seen consumers fight for — and win! — stronger state laws to limit toxic chemicals for years. This force is now being applied to the marketplace — and it’s working.

Wal-Mart also joins a growing list of governments and citizens working for a comprehensive approach to safer chemicals. We wrote about the state laws that take this comprehensive approach to chemical regulation (identifying and reporting large classes of chemicals, and setting broader regulatory systems in place) last month.

It’s our hope that companies like Wal-Mart are also now realizing that instead of fighting chemical regulations, they can be proactive and avoid regulation by not using harmful chemicals in the first place. Instead, they can provide the safer products consumers want. That’s good for families, and good for business.

While we’re excited about Wal-Mart’s announcement, it’s just the tip of the toxic iceberg. The company needs to follow-through on implementing this policy and address more than just 10 chemicals before we can claim victory for public health.

But if Wal-Mart can make their products safer, the lessons they learn in doing so can inform other businesses and regulators who want to make the same transition. Wal-Mart has taken a giant step forward. Let’s hope they bring others with them, and keep us all moving toward a healthier planet.

Changing the system to protect our health: prioritizing, disclosing and phasing out toxic chemicals

Aug 25, 2013    Bookmark and Share

Cheering Kids

Comprehensive laws do heavy lifting in the States.

When policymakers want to get harmful chemicals out of everyday, household products, they often face a choice: either to attack the chemicals one by one with specific bans, or take a more comprehensive approach with programs that identify chemicals of high concern, require disclosure of chemicals in products, and find safer alternatives to harmful chemicals. Because the latter approach has farther-reaching effects on a whole system, we refer to those bills as comprehensive policy.

We've talked a lot about single chemical bans, from BPA to flame retardants to cadmium. The laser focus of these bans are immediate and effective. They are often the best resource we have to get a harmful chemical out of products quickly. However, sometimes once a chemical is banned, it can be replaced by something new that is equally toxic, leading to a dangerous chemical whack-a-mole game.

This is where comprehensive policies have an advantage. Most comprehensive laws allow state agencies to continually evaluate new chemicals as they crop up, and allow states to bend and flex to new chemicals as they arrive on the scene. By codifying large lists of concerning chemicals, or coming up with evaluation procedures, or requiring manufacturers to let consumers and agencies know when their products change, comprehensive policies have the range and flexibility to offer protections that evolve as times and products change. And thankfully, they're gaining some ground.

Maine's Kid-Safe Products Act

In 2008, Maine passed the Kid-Safe Products Act, a comprehensive chemical reform bill taking on toxic chemicals in products intended for children under the age of three. The law outlined a several year strategy. The first step was to identify a list of chemicals of concern. Using established scientific criteria, in 2011, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection published a list of over 1,300 Chemicals of Concern, and designated 49 of them as chemicals of highest concern. This list is the first step in increasing public protection. Further protection comes when consumers and policymakers can know what chemicals are in certain consumer products. That's where another part of the Maine law steps in.


States to US Senators: Don't tie our hands

Jul 24, 2013    Bookmark and Share

States to US Senators: Don't tie our hands

Just when consumers thought store shelves might contain fewer toxic chemicals, a new proposed law in Congress threatens to allow harmful chemicals back into products and homes. That's because the recently proposed Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) could undermine hundreds of landmark state laws that protect our health and environment from harmful chemicals.

Could bisphenol A, lead, toxic flame retardants find their way back to store shelves in your state? It's a real possibility if the current version of the CSIA isn't improved.

Over the last decade we've joined consumers in cheering the passage of groundbreaking state laws that protect our health from harmful chemicals. State legislatures from Maine to California have stood up to the chemical industry and responded to consumer concern about their families' health by passing laws aimed at getting some of the worst chemicals out of the marketplace and our homes.

These laws haven't just protected citizens in their own states, but resulted in changes in the marketplace that protect consumers across the country. For example, state bans on hormone-disrupting BPA moved manufacturers away from the chemical and eventually prompted the federal government to take action to eliminate these chemicals in certain products nationally. State laws requiring disclosure of certain chemicals being used in consumer products are causing companies to think twice before they use a chemical that might have to be reported.

Yet, this good work is in danger of being undone if Congress passes the CSIA without some important fixes. The proposed law would make many existing state laws unenforceable and prohibit states from taking future action on chemicals. This has state legislators, agencies, businesses, and advocates concerned.

Sarah Doll, National Director of SAFER States, expressed concern this week saying, "The SAFER States agree that TSCA needs to be reformed to protect families from toxic chemicals, but do not support this version of the CSIA without strengthening changes. State legislatures will have their hands tied when it comes to controlling what chemicals are in products sold in their states."


Washington State: The Toxic Facts are In

May 1, 2013    Bookmark and Share

ChemicalsRevealed The chemical industry has long said that all of the chemicals in our household products are totally safe—and anyone who believes otherwise is being ridiculously extreme. In fact, they're just silly chemophobes!

But we here at SAFER aren't motivated by baseless extremism or irrational fears—we're motivated by scientific data. And today, the numbers are in.

Thanks to groundbreaking legislation in Washington State, makers of kids' products have to report when they have chemicals that have been flagged as dangerous. And the data have been staggering.

Over 5,000 kids' products in Washington contain toxic chemicals— everything from cadmium to phthalates to flame retardants. And these chemicals are in products with trusted labels—everything from Walmart to the Gap to H&M.

We applaud the manufacturers for reporting these chemicals in Washington—and the other states that are considering similar legislation to address the products sold in their state. We're still working for a federal solution to move these toxic chemicals out of kids' products for good. But for now, we're happy to have the data on hand, so consumers can see what's in their products. Because our concern isn't about extremism or irrationality—it's about the toxic facts.

Chemical Industry Doublespeak

Apr 15, 2013    Bookmark and Share

While industry talks out of both sides of its mouth, we ask "which is it?"

While industry talks out of both sides of its mouth, we ask Which is It?

This month, state legislatures across the country are working to pass bills protecting families and children from the dangerous health effects of toxic chemicals. We are hearing of many good fights, and many bills heading toward wins. You can see the bills — and follow their fights — with our Bill Tracker.

Safer States' National Director, Sarah Doll, recently talked about progress so far this year: "Our state partners are talking to me on a nearly daily basis this spring. Vermont's ban against Tris—a toxic flame retardant chemical—has passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority and is now onto the House. Oregon has made progress on HB 3162, which requires makers of children's products to disclose presence of chemicals of concern in products. And Washington State's flame retardants bill is progressing through the legislature despite a tough fight from industry. Every win is a step toward safer products for all of us."

None of the fights are easy; each tiny step forward toward safer products is met with vociferous opposition. The opposition is made up of large chemical corporations like ExxonMobil and Dow and the organization that represents them—the American Chemistry Council (ACC), as well as the Toy Industry Association which represents large toy corporations. If you go to the websites of these organizations, they seem to be looking out for the health and welfare of consumers. But each time states try to pass laws which would get toxic chemicals out of everyday consumer products like couches, beds, computers, children's toys and food packaging, industry opposition is in the hearings, arguing for these bills to be defeated.


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