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Washington State Issues Landmark Rule on Disclosure of Toxic Chemicals in Children’s Products

Seattle, WA- Under a new rule issued by the Washington state Department of Ecology, makers of children’s products will soon have to report what toxic chemicals are present in their products. The rule is a first-of-its-kind in the nation and targets chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive abnormalities in a wide range of children’s products, including toys, clothes, and shampoos.

The rule implements the Children’s Safe Products Act, which was passed by the legislature in 2008 in response to the lead in toys recalls of 2007. Specifically, the rule:

  1. Classifies 66 chemicals as “chemicals of high concern to children.”
  2. Requires that children’s product manufacturers report to Ecology whether their products contain these chemicals.
  3. Phases in reporting requirements based on manufacturer size and type of children’s product. The largest manufacturers who make products that are likely to be placed in a child’s mouth or on their skin, or products for children 3 and under, will report first.

However, health advocates are concerned the rule will not collect sufficient information to allow consumers and policymakers to make informed decisions about toxic chemicals in consumer products. For example, toy manufacturers will only be required to report that a specific chemical is in their dolls, but won’t have to report how many dolls or which specific dolls contain the chemical.

Members of the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, a state-wide coalition of more than 50 health, environmental, consumer, and children’s organizations applauded the rule but cautioned they would keep a watchful eye on how the rule was implemented to ensure consumers and policymakers receive adequate information about chemicals in toys:

“Parents are sick and tired of worrying about toxic chemicals in their children’s toys.  This new rule is a huge opportunity to protect children’s health from harmful toxic chemicals and give parents peace of mind,” said Laurie Valeriano, policy director with the Washington Toxics Coalition.

“Nurses across the state are thrilled to see Ecology stepping up to the plate to protect children’s health. Nursing is a prevention-based practice and the new rule will help prevent diseases related to toxic chemical exposures. It’s a great day for kids! It’s difficult as a grandparent to find safe toys,” said Karen Bowman, environmental health specialist with the Washington State Nurses Association.

“Keeping our children, families, and future generations safe from poisons in items we use every day—toys, dishes, blankets—is important to the faith community in Washington.  It is not a moral choice to experiment with our children’s bodies by exposing them to toxic products.  We applaud the Department of Ecology for taking a first good step toward a creating a long-term safe chemicals policy,” said Jessie Dye, program and outreach director with Earth Ministry.

“This rule advances the goal of ensuring our children have an environment in which they can reach and maintain their full potential free of harmful chemicals. The challenge remains to create a broader approach to chemical policy that requires manufacturers to more fully evaluate potential hazards and make this information available to the public,” said Dr. Steve Gilbert, president, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“Ecology did the right thing by having the chemicals of concern list include phthalates – chemicals which are widely used and potentially harmful to children. Washington has the legal authority to protect children by requiring companies to disclose the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as phthalates,” said Matthew Gerhart, an attorney at Earthjustice.

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Stephanie Stohler, [email protected]

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