Despite intense industry opposition and Congressional inaction, state governments continue to defend the vulnerable from exposure to toxic chemicals. And that’s a good thing that they do!
Each year, state legislatures continue to prove that they are the leaders in protecting public health from toxic chemicals. In the past 10 years, 19 states have adopted more than 93 chemical safety policies and this year, at least 26 states are expected 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
State laws can also 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.
The federal handling of toxic chemicals is so flawed that initiating measures at the state level might be the fastest way to implement change countrywide. Indeed, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which is 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. A TSCA overhaul bill was introduced in 2011, but it got obstructed.
Every legislative session brings its load of stories about opposition lobbyists who make backroom deals with legislators, spread misinformation about toxic chemicals, their effects and threaten economic impacts that have never come to fruition. The American Chemistry Council and other lobbying groups are powerful in Washington and backed by billions of dollars in influence, making states legislatures’ initiatives even more needed to protect public health. Groups like the Safer States Coalition (includes environmental advocates, physicians, nurses, parents, and concerned citizens) add critical additional support.
In 2013, the hope of the Safer States Coalition is to continue the pattern of more disclosure of toxic chemicals, and more consideration of safer alternatives in our everyday products. Particular focus will be brought to Tris flame retardants (at least 15 states). Those chemicals are probable carcinogens found in products made of foam, including baby sleep products and couches. The chemical has become infamous after the chemical industry’s intense misinformation campaign was uncovered last year by the Chicago Tribune. Building on the momentum to try and kick them out is the plan.