Posted January 29, 2013 by Kathleen Schuler, MPH
People across the country are concerned about toxic chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA), flame retardants, phthalates and formaldehyde in products they use every day, including those designed for babies and children. Most people agree that hormone disrupters, carcinogens and developmental toxins don’t belong in our consumer products. While action at the federal level is needed to better regulate toxic chemicals, states are taking the lead on protecting their citizens. At least 26 states will consider policies in 2013 to address concerns over toxic chemicals in consumer products, according to an analysis by Safer States, a national coalition of state-based environmental health organizations. The bills will cover a broad range of topics from bans on toxic flame retardants and bisphenol A (BPA) in consumer products to requirements that states identify chemicals of concern for health, manufacturers disclose their use of chemicals in products and the phase out of chemicals of concern.
Chemicals in our food system contribute to much of the human exposure to toxic chemicals, as persistent, toxic chemicals build up in the food chain and the human body. In addition, we are exposed to hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA, PFCs and phthalates in food packaging.
“With more studies showing increased exposure to toxic or untested chemicals in our homes, citizens are demanding action at the state level,” said Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “Stronger state laws not only benefit public health, but the marketplace, too, by restoring consumer's confidence that products in stores are safe. We urge state legislators across the country to continue leading on these critical public health protections.”
“States realize that we can’t sit idly by and wait on Congress to protect our children from toxic chemicals,” said National Caucus of Environmental Legislators Board Chairman and Maryland Delegate James Hubbard. “The threats to public health from inaction are too great to ignore.”
State action on toxic chemicals is nothing new. Since 2003, 19 states have adopted 93 chemical safety policies. According to SAFER, “The majority of legislation passed with healthy bipartisan support—99% of Democratic legislators and 75% of Republican legislators voted in favor of bills, and both Republican and Democratic governors signed them into law.”
Minnesota is one of the leading states in protecting children from toxic chemicals, due to the leadership of Minnesota legislators and the work of Healthy Legacy. Healthy Legacy, led by IATP and Clean Water Action, is a coalition of 36 groups across the state representing more than a million Minnesotans. In 2009, Minnesota was the first state to pass a ban on BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. Now eleven states and the FDA have taken action on BPA. Minnesota also passed the Toxic Free Kids Act, which required the Minnesota Department of Health to generate a list of chemicals of high concern and a list of priority chemicals in children’s products. There are nine chemicals on the priority chemicals list, including three phthalates, two flame retardants, lead, cadmium, BPA and formaldehyde.
For the 2013 legislative session, Healthy Legacy will advocate for three bills to protect children’s health.