Further Establishes Washington State As Leader In Protecting Children’s Health

(Seattle, WA) Taking its cue from Washington State, Congress is poised to pass legislation setting the first-ever national standards for lead and the plasticizers known as phthalates in toys and child care articles. 

Washington State paved the way earlier this year with the passage of the Children’s Safe Products Act, which established the nation’s strongest standards on lead, cadmium, and phthalates for toys and other children’s products.  The federal House of Representatives is expected to vote today and the Senate is likely to vote on Friday.

“We’re pleased that Congress followed Washington’s lead and finally took action to eliminate a few of the harmful chemicals found in toys and children’s products.  The chemical industry and toy industry are now on notice that toxic chemicals have no place in children’s toys,” said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, environmental health advocate with the Washington Toxics Coalition.

The new federal law, called the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Improvement Act of 2008 (H.R. 4040), permanently bans three types of phthalates from toys and certain child care articles, temporarily bans three other types of phthalates from toys and certain child care articles pending scientific review, and ratchets down allowable lead levels in toys over a three-year period.

“Washington State’s precedent setting child products safety bill led other states to follow suit and Congress to finally take action to protect the children of this country. We should be very proud that Washington state took the lead in establishing the strongest child products standard in the nation”, said State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36, Seattle), sponsor of the Children’s Safe Products Act.

The extent to which the federal bill preempts Washington’s law remains unclear.  Although the federal bill will preempt aspects of Washington’s stronger standards, Washington may apply for a federal waiver to keep its stronger standards in place.  Several important provisions of Washington’s law will still stand, including the nation’s only cadmium standard as well as the requirement that children’s product manufacturers disclose levels of other toxic chemicals in their products. Products not covered by the federal law but included in Washington State’s law, such as children’s cosmetics and car seats, will also remain subject to state standards.

A dozen state legislatures introduced bills over the past year to address the problem of toxic toys.  In addition to Washington, states including Maine, Connecticut, Illinois, Vermont, and California all have laws in place to regulate chemicals in children’s products.  This state action, along with outraged parents and concerned medical professionals, helped light the spark for Congressional action.

“Congress would not have acted without visionary leaders in our state who were willing to support groundbreaking policies that protect children’s health.  We will continue to work with these leaders to pass new policies that will spur further Congressional action and make sure toxic chemicals don’t make it into consumer products in the first place,” said Sager-Rosenthal.

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