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Congress Follows Washington State’s Lead on Chemical Reform

“Kid Safe Chemical Act” Proposes New Chemical Regulations; Core Elements from Cutting-Edge State Legislation Missing

Prompted by passage of progressive chemical policy laws in several states this year, including Washington state’s recently passed Children’s Safe Product Act, federal lawmakers have introduced legislation to overhaul the nation’s chemical policies that have failed to protect children, workers, and communities from chemical exposures that may harm their health.

“Reports of toxic chemicals in children’s toys, cosmetics, and other products found in every home in America have shocked the public and revealed the extent to which the chemical industry is permitted to run amok under current law,” said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal of the Washington Toxics Coalition. “Washington state, along with several other states, is leading the way to a new day of consumer protection from toxic chemicals and we commend Congress for joining these efforts.”

The “Kid Safe Chemical Act of 2008,” introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D- NJ), together with Representatives Hilda Solis (D-CA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), sets out to modernize federal chemical policies by requiring manufacturers to disclose safety data for new chemicals and those already in use, effectively changing the standard under the current law, which requires the government, not manufacturers, to show harm from chemicals.

The bill would also fill a critical information gap by expanding data collection and, for the first time ever, requiring the government to track pollution in people, including newborn babies, to help identify chemicals that threaten human health.

Yet core provisions of cutting-edge state laws are missing from the federal bill, including phasing-out the most toxic, dangerous chemicals that persist in the environment and build up in the food chain and requiring manufacturers to use safer alternatives if they are readily available and effective.  Washington state’s recently passed Children’s Safe Product Act eliminates the use of lead, cadmium, and phthalates in children’s products and requires the state to develop a list of chemicals that are a concern for children.  In Maine, recent legislation gives the state authority to limit or ban a children’s product if it contains a chemical found to be harmful for children.

“In Washington state we’ve adopted a common sense approach that works for the public and policymakers alike.  If a chemical is dangerous, and we know that safer alternatives are available, then industry should make the switch,” said Sager-Rosenthal.  “That same approach will make ‘Kids Safe’ legislation stronger.”

These core elements are the foundation for chemical standards in the European Union, which is forcing global companies to reconfigure their product lines. In response to public outcry, major corporations from Wal-Mart to Pfizer to Levi Strauss have already agreed to phase-out dangerous priority chemicals present in every day consumer products like toys, cosmetics, and mattresses.

Recent studies show that rising rates of diseases and disorders – including cancers, early onset of puberty, obesity, and neurological developmental effects — may be linked to chemical exposure and underscore the urgent need to better regulate chemicals in consumer products.

Washington state has established itself as a national leader in regulating chemicals in products with the recent passage of the of the nation’s strongest chemical standards for toys and first-ever ban on all forms of toxic flame retardants (PBDEs) in consumer products.  These laws were backed by the Washington-state based Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, a broad coalition of environmental and health organizations, parents, nurses, and physicians alarmed by the implications for children’s health and lack of progress to reform the national chemical system,

“Washington state must continue to show it is possible to enact cutting-edge policies that protect children from toxic chemicals. Citizens now are demanding such policies and we look forward to working with our federal delegation to respond to these demands,” said Sager-Rosenthal.

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Stephanie Stohler, [email protected]

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