States act while Congress fiddles

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

Lest anyone thought that efforts by state legislators to protect their citizens from toxic chemical exposures would slacken despite Congress’ inability to take such action, this week’s announcement that legislators in at least 26 states are introducing such bills should dispel that notion.

Safer States, a national coalition of state-based environmental health organizations, notes that “between 2003 and 2011, 19 states adopted 93 chemical safety policies. The majority of legislation passed with healthy bipartisan support – 99% of Democratic legislators and 75% of Republican legislators voted in favor of bills, and both Republican and Democratic governors signed them into law.”

That trend shows no signs of abating in 2013, based on a list of state legislative activities underway, compiled by Safer States (more detail here):  At least 26 states are each to consider multiple legislation and policy changes this year that will:

  • restrict or label the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in receipts, children's products and food packaging;
  • require removal of certain toxic flame retardants from children's products, home furniture or building materials;
  • change disclosure rules so that concerned consumers will have a way to identify toxic chemicals in products;
  • encourage manufacturers to remove identified toxic chemicals in favor of safer alternatives.
  • ban cadmium, a dangerous, persistent metal that is often found in inexpensive children's jewelry;
  • ban formaldehyde from cosmetics and children's products; and
  • promote green cleaning products in schools.

The chemical industry frequently argues it just can’t live with a “patchwork” of requirements that vary from state to state.  But that’s just what it’s creating by dragging its feet on reform of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has never been amended since its adoption nearly four decades ago. 

State legislators, like nature, abhor a vacuum.

 

 

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