Editor’s Note: this post was written by Laurie Valeriano, the Executive Director of Toxic-Free Future, and Mike Schade, the Mind the Store campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
Yesterday, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Amazon announced an important enforcement action that will keep brain-damaging lead and cancer-causing cadmium out of the hands and mouths of children. This follows an investigation that revealed consumers in Washington and across the country made at least 15,188 purchases of products with illegal levels of lead and cadmium from amazon.com.
The new settlement is excellent news for kids not just in Washington State but nationwide! It should also be a welcome relief for parents who have enough to worry about—they shouldn’t have to worry whether the lunch box or costume jewelry they buy for their children contains chemicals that can impact their ability to learn or cause cancer.
More broadly, this demonstrates the importance and impact that states can have in making our homes and kids safer from harmful chemicals in products. Before Washington State adopted stringent lead and cadmium levels for kids’ toys and jewelry under the 2008 Children’s Safe Products Act, there were weak federal standards for lead in toys. Back then, the state law spurred federal action, and now the enforcement of both the state and federal laws by the Washington State Attorney General will result in a national change from one of the world’s largest online retailers.
“As a parent, when I buy products for my kids, I expect them to be safe. All retailers must ensure that their products do not pose a threat to Washington children. If they don’t, they will hear from my office.” – Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson
Amazon’s chemicals policy
Toxic-Free Future, the Mind the Store campaign, NRDC, and other coalition partners have been urging Amazon for years to adopt a comprehensive chemicals policy and last year Amazon took the first step. This was welcome news! Since then, the company has expanded it to also ban the sale of toxic paint strippers.
But this new enforcement action clearly demonstrates the urgency for expansion and improvements to Amazon’s chemicals policy, not only to comply with existing laws but to go beyond the laws and get ahead of regulation. In this situation, the costs associated with compliance and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to the state could have been avoided if Amazon had stronger protocols in place.
We are glad to see that Amazon agreed to require Upstream Product Safety Control of sellers on amazon.com. This means they will be requiring sellers of children’s school supplies and jewelry on amazon.com to demonstrate they are in compliance by submitting lab reports that show state and federal lead and cadmium limits are not being violated.
However, it shouldn’t just stop with lead and cadmium or just these product categories because far too many products contain harmful chemicals that can impact children’s health. That’s why Washington State just adopted a groundbreaking new chemical law that will tackle some of the most dangerous classes of chemicals that are put into products. The law prioritizes, among others, toxic PFAS chemicals widely used in carpets and furniture, as well as organohalogen flame retardants we know from our own testing are in the televisions Amazon sells.
These chemicals will soon face greater scrutiny and regulation in Washington and other states across the country. Washington’s law addressing five classes of chemicals provides a roadmap of chemicals that retailers like Amazon should follow. It makes a lot of sense for Amazon to get out ahead of the regulatory curve and restrict these chemicals in the products it sells.