The States we’re in on chemical policy reform in 2011: 30 and counting

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Today, legislators in 30 states and the District of Columbia introduced or announced plans to introduce bills aimed at reducing the impact of chemicals on public health.  These actions send a strong signal that states will to continue to respond to the mounting public concern over unsafe, under-regulated and inadequately tested chemicals — in the face of continued inaction by the U.S. Congress to do so.

The bills differ in scope and content, but all of them address chemicals, products or policy needs that have fallen through the cracks in the 35 years since the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted.

With strong, bipartisan majorities of Americans embracing the need for stronger chemical laws, these latest actions make clear that states will continue to act until there is a strong federal system in place that restores confidence in our government’s ability to assure the safety of all chemicals we use and encounter in our daily lives. 

Such a remarkable level of activity happening so early in 2011 and in over half of the nation’s state legislatures should dispel any notion that Congress’ consideration of TSCA reform in the last Congress would somehow dampen the states’ view that they need to step in to fill the continuing void at the Federal level.  With the stalling-out of TSCA reform last year and uncertain prospects in the new Congress, state legislators aren’t waiting to take action their constitutents expect them to take to ensure chemical safety.

And if the last eight years are any guide, many of the bills announced today, and others like them, will be enacted into law.  As I noted in an earlier post, a report issued last year by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Safer States — titled Healthy States: Protecting Families While Congress Lags Behind — identified 71 chemical safety laws that were adopted between 2003 and 2010 in 18 states encompassing 41% of the U.S. population.

A summary of the types of bills introduced or soon to be introduced follows.

Comprehensive State Laws: Nine states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Washington and Vermont, will be introducing or have introduced policies to change the way we regulate chemicals at the state level.

BPA Phase Outs: At least seventeen states will be introducing or have introduced policies to restrict the use of BPA in infant formula cans, receipt paper, baby bottles and/or sippy cups including: Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and the District of Columbia.

State TSCA Resolutions: At least eleven states will be calling on the 112th U.S. Congress to bring our federal chemicals policy into the 21st century: Alaska, California, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

Banning Cadmium in Children’s Products: At least eight states will be introducing or have introduced policies to ban the use of cadmium in children’s products, including: Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey and New York.

Deca BDE (toxic flame retardant) Phase Outs: At least three states will be introducing or have introduced policies to reduce exposure to deca BDE, including: Alaska, Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia.

Legislation planned: Chemical safety legislation is also planned in South Dakota.

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