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.

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.

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Updates on the Fight Against BPA

Jan 15, 2013    Bookmark and Share

Despite bans, BPA is still present in many everyday products.

Updated January 17, 2013.

We thought that the beginning of the year would be a good time to update you on bisphenol A (BPA): the ubiquitous chemical that is found in canned goods, register receipts, children's products, plastics and even dental sealants, and is linked with health impacts including behavioral impacts in young children, reproductive issues, miscarriage in pregnant women, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups nationally. At this point, eleven states had done the hard work of banning BPA from these products, including New York and California. Manufacturers realized this was a losing battle, and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) took the unusual step of asking the FDA directly to ban the chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups. When asking for the ban, the ACC—the industry group that lobbies on behalf of chemical companies—directly cited the number of state bans that had passed as a reason for requesting an FDA ruling. This group had worked very hard to keep BPA bans out of the states, using industry tricks and millions of dollars. But they realized that the public and the tide were against them and requested the federal ruling.

But BPA is still present in so many products that we come into contact with every day, and we continue to learn about the health impacts associated with BPA.

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Your children’s health isn’t the Toy Industry Association’s top priority

Nov 13, 2012    Bookmark and Share

Your children’s health isn’t the Toy Industry Association’s top priority

Click through the web site belonging to the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and you'll read about dedication to providing Americans with creative and fun toys. And really, what's more fun than toys? But behind TIA's seemingly positive face lies a more nefarious goal: laser-focused dedication to the bottom line of the companies it represents, at the cost of the health of children. We have heard from organizations throughout the country who say that TIA lobbyists show up at state hearings, opposing rules that would give the public a true insight into the chemicals that are in toys.

Much like the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the TIA wields hundreds of thousands dollars in some states trying to defeat bills and policies which would protect the public from toxic chemicals like bisphenol-a (BPA), formaldehyde, cadmium and phthalates in our children's most prized possessions: toys. Children sleep with toys, put them in their mouths and even put them in their food. And sometimes those toys contain chemicals that can negatively affect children's cognitive function and development, skin and respiratory systems, and can increase the risk of cancer later in life.

Seven manufacturers reluctantly disclosed that the chemical BPA is present in 280 plastic toys, in the first chemical use reports submitted under Maine's Kid Safe Products Act, a chemical safety law bitterly opposed by the toy industry (pdf). BPA disrupts hormones in the body, harms brain development and reproductive health and may contribute to obesity and diabetes. Because of growing concern about threats to healthy childhood development, BPA has been removed from virtually all baby bottles and formula can linings. Why then is it OK that BPA is present in the toys that the children pick up once they put down their baby bottles?

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Toxic flame retardants: In our homes, our dust, our lives

Sep 22, 2011    Bookmark and Share

Toxic flame retardants are found in many household products including items found in your child's nursery.

Updated October 13, 2011

Toxic flame retardants are one of the most common sources of toxicity in our homes and our lives. They are used on everything from computer casings, to furniture, to carpeting, to children's products. "The problem is, they don't stay put," says Rebecca Williams, a reporter for The Environment Report1. "They leach out of products and they get into us."

Health concerns surrounding these chemicals—including everything from cancer to thyroid issues to reproductive harm—are serious enough that many groups including fire professionals are interested in getting toxic flame retardants out of our daily lives.

From a letter2 released by the International Association of Fire Fighters:

"Many studies involving fire fighters exposed to these and other toxic gases during active fire fighting, overhaul, and long term exposure from these chemicals penetrating protective gear, have found that fire fighters have a much greater risk of contracting cancer, heart and lung disease, and other debilitating diseases. While we support the concept of flame retardant chemicals, there are [safer] alternatives."

When we talk about toxic flame retardants on Safer States, we are referring to a whole group of chemicals that are used on household products for the purposes of slowing down combustion. Unlike some chemicals (cadmium, for example), the concern isn't with a specific single chemical. Instead, we reference a group of chemicals intended for a single purpose, nearly all of which have been shown to have harmful effects on children, fire fighters, fish and wildlife.

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Industry Opposition to Toxics: How the chemical industry undermines state efforts.

Feb 28, 2011    Bookmark and Share

 

The chemical industry is an incredibly influential force in the United States, and around the world.

 

In 2010, dozens of laws were passed in statehouses and localities to protect children, families and workers from toxic chemicals. The laws ranged the gamut from bisphenol-A (BPA) restrictions, to laws promoting green chemicals in state buildings, to comprehensive laws moving toward a healthier, greener approach to chemicals in particular states.

As different as these laws were, nearly every one shared something in common: loud and highly paid opposition from the chemical industry, an industry which is not willing to yield to public outcry and scientific evidence and move toward a safer lifecycle for products which we use every day.

The chemical industry is an incredibly influential force in the United States, and around the world. The loudest voice in the industry is its trade association, the American Chemistry Council (ACC). It represents over 150 of the largest chemical manufacturers in this country, including the $46 billion chlorine industry and the plastics industry which touches every part of our lives, provides $379 billion in annual shipments and employs 850,000 workers .

Some of the largest companies in the chemical industry are BASF, Bayer Group, DuPont and Dow Chemical. Most of the large players produce chemicals which are used in the production of other products. For instance, among thousands of products, BASF makes dyes used in clothing manufacture, fungicides and insecticides used in farming, coatings and solvents used in electronics, foams used in construction and appliances, and even acid that is used to disinfect kegs and barrels in breweries and wineries.

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Effective federal chemical policy reform? Partner with the states!

Sep 7, 2010    Bookmark and Share

Mike Belliveau This blog was originally published by the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

By Mike Belliveau, Executive Director for the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

I was pleased to see yet another display of bipartisan state leadership aimed at preventing disease, disability and environmental damage from toxic chemicals. Today, the leading coalition of state agency environmental directors, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), announced adoption of a resolution calling for strong federal legislation to fix our broken chemical safety system. In exercising state leadership, they proved the case for a new federal partnership with the states to ensure chemical safety.

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Maine moving toward a BPA ban, but needs your help!

Aug 26, 2010    Bookmark and Share

The state of Maine is looking to ban bisphenol-A (BPA) as the first "priority chemical" in their Kids-Safe Product Act (a law that was passed in 2008). BPA bans are already in place in Vermont, Maryland, Minnesota, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Washington as well as several counties and cities in the United States. This toxic chemical is being banned in many places because of its health effects which harm vulnerable populations like pregnant women, babies and children.

This month, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) is holding public hearings about whether to ban BPA from baby bottles, sippy cups and reusable food and beverage containers that are used by children. The public comment period ends on August 30, and we urge Maine residents to check the bottom of this post for instructions on how to have your voice heard. Next, the bill will go up for a vote by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection, then there will be a vote in the Maine Legislature.

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Maine looking to ban BPA in childrens' products

Jun 23, 2010    Bookmark and Share

ToddlerWithBottle250

In 2008, Maine passed the "Kids-Safe Products Act," one of the strongest toxic chemical laws in the nation. It requires that the state adopt a list of priority chemicals which are harmful to children and that they be phased out in order to protect this vulnerable population.

A list of 1700 "Chemicals of High Concern" have been identified by the state, and from that list Maine's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be identifying "Priority Chemicals" at the rate of two per year which are particularly harmful to children. Chemicals identified on this list will be regulated in children's products and manufacturers will be required to disclose the use of these chemicals and move toward safer alternatives.

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Safer States: News Round-Up

Jun 10, 2010    Bookmark and Share

Cadmium is a dangerous metal that is often found in inexpensive costume jewelry.

There has been a lot of toxics news coming from the states lately. The Safer States organizations have been doing an amazing job of protecting their state's citizens through legislation restricting toxic chemicals. Moreover, elected officials have been hearing the message from their voters: we deserve to be protected from toxic chemicals in our lives.

Here's what's happening, state by state:

Alaska

This year's legislative calendar included a ban on Deca-BDE in mattresses and electronics. The bill ultimately failed, but the momentum for the bill was encouraging.

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Read more about Maine...