States Lead on Abolishing Toxic Chemicals, While Congress Lags Behind

Despite well-funded opposition from the chemical industry, 9 states passed legislation to protect the public from toxic chemicals this year.

Four states took administrative action to regulate dangerous chemicals in products often consumed by children, including bisphenol A (BPA), cadmium, formaldehyde, and chlorinated tris. 

On the state level, there’s been bipartisan support for  protecting children’s health and the environment from dangerous chemicals. 99% of Democrats and 86% of Republicans supported the policies listed below.

18 states have passed over 80 chemical safety laws in the last nine years by an overwhelming margin with broad bipartisan support.

With federal action uncertain, if not impossible, state governments are expected to continue introducing and passing laws to curb toxic chemicals in 2012.

"This is not Republican legislation or Democratic legislation; this is common sense legislation. This is about giving our children a healthy future and our businesses the security of selling safer products that can help lower health costs for everyone," says Representative Dana Dow, (R-ME), a leader on Maine’s kid-safe product policy." Many of our federal chemical standards are outdated and ineffective. We have a moral and ethical responsibility to follow the best science and get unnecessary dangerous chemicals out of everyday products."

Meanwhile, Congress has yet to pass pending legislation to overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In April, Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S.847) which would increase chemical safety, protect vulnerable sub-populations such as pregnant women and children, and create incentives for new, safer chemicals.

The bill would reform TSCA, which has proven ineffective in identifying and reducing the use of toxic chemicals. Scientific research links toxic chemical exposures in early life to some of the most serious public health threats of our time, such as breast and prostate cancer, infertility, and learning and developmental disabilities.

"Parents around the country are tired of worrying if every product they purchase could contain toxic chemicals harmful for their child," says Sarah Doll, National Director of SAFER States. "Fortunately state governments across the country have recognized the need to replace harmful chemicals with safe alternatives. It’s time for the federal government to step up and join the efforts of state leaders to protect public health."

Last year, two national health-based coalitions, SAFER States and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, released a report,  Healthy States: Protecting Families from Toxic Chemicals While Congress Lags Behind, demonstrating the overwhelming political support for this issue.

Highlights of 2011 State Progress

  • California and Illinois passed resolutions urging Congress to update TSCA. The state resolutions highlight important state and federal priorities.
  • Connecticut is the first state in the nation to ban BPA in thermal receipt paper.
  • Delaware and Massachusetts banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.
  • Maine strengthened the Kids Safe Products Act and banned BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and reusable food and beverage containers. By January 2012, Maine’s Chemicals of Concern list will be updated; up to 70 chemicals will be included as Chemicals of High Concern based upon likely exposure to children or fetuses.
  • Maryland banned BPA in infant formula containers and cadmium in children’s jewelry, adding to the 2010 ban on BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. The state restricted cadmium in jewelry for children under 13, joining other states including CA, CT, IL and MN. 
  • Washington is the first state to require manufacturers of children’s products to report the toxic chemicals in their products. The rule targets chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive abnormalities in a wide range of children’s products, including toys, clothes, and shampoos.
  • Massachusetts, under the Toxics Use Reduction Act, determined formaldehyde and hexavalent chromium to be high-risk chemicals. Companies now have to report and carefully plan their use of these chemicals.
  • Minnesota published a list of nine Priority Chemicals of High Concern that are found in the human body, the environment, household dust, water or children’s products. The list includes three phthalates (BBP, DBP, DEHP); two halogenated flame retardants (deca and HBCD); as well as lead, cadmium, formaldehyde and BPA. This list is a subset of the list of 1,756 Chemicals of High Concern that are persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic that was published by MN in July 2010. 
  • New York is the first state to ban products for kids and babies containing the toxic tris flame retardant TCEP, a chemical linked to cancer. Also the NY State Interagency Committee on Procurement voted to approve policy requiring all state agencies to consider avoiding 85 toxic chemicals in products, services and technologies purchased by the state.

Also this year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation began enforcing a decades-old law requiring companies that manufacture household cleaning products to disclose their ingredients. This will be the first time in the U.S. that companies will be required to disclose a complete picture of chemicals used in cleaning products.

"Every year states around the nation will chip away at our federal chemicals policy until products on store shelves – especially those intended for children – are safe," says Anne Hulick, registered nurse and coordinator with the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut. "Mounting research on the health impacts of toxic chemicals, lack of Congressional action, and continued consumer concern will continue to move state governments to protect their citizens from harmful chemicals."

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Comments on “States Lead on Abolishing Toxic Chemicals, While Congress Lags Behind”

  1. Richard

    “Four states took administrative action to regulate dangerous chemicals in products often consumed by children, including bisphenol A (BPA)…”

    Except that there is no evidence that BPA is in any way dangerous. At least three studies, including one by the EPA (which is very keen to find things to ban) have found it is harmless.

  2. ReadTheShrill

    I don’t understand, you seem to support bans on BPA, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just completed a study that says it is not dangerous. This makes me think that all the “dangerous chemicals” on which you support bans are not really so dangerous after all, and that this organization has ulterior motives.

  3. Rona Fried

    EPA is currently studying EPA and hasn’t come to conclusions yet. The FDA is also studying it. The FDA’s website on BPA says: Studies employing standardized toxicity tests have thus far supported the safety of current low levels of human exposure to BPA. However, on the basis of results from recent studies using novel approaches to test for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children. While it’s being studied,
    FDA is taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply. These steps include: supporting the industry’s actions to stop producing BPA-containing baby bottles and infant feeding cups for the U.S. market;
    facilitating development of alternatives to BPA for the linings of infant formula cans; and
    supporting efforts to replace BPA or minimize BPA levels in other food can linings.


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