Shumlin signs toxics bill designed to protect children from potentially dangerous chemicals

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Shumlin signs toxics bill designed to protect children from potentially dangerous chemicals

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 3:46pm -- tim

Governor Peter Shumlin today signed into law a bill requiring manufacturers of products with toxic chemicals that can cause harmful health effects to disclose when those chemicals are present in children’s products. The new law identifies some chemicals of particular concern.

“This law now allows Vermont parents and all consumers to make choices about the type of chemicals in products they buy,” the governor said. “Preventing potential exposure to toxic chemicals is the best way to protect adults and children, as well as the environment. The first step in prevention -- and the point of this law -- is to make people aware of toxic chemicals in children’s products.”

Commissioner of Health, Harry Chen, MD, said, “The Department of Health supports and is ready to implement the law.  Using good science to inform Vermonters of, and protect them from, toxic chemicals is the right thing to do.”

The law will give scientists data about the number of products that contain chemicals of concern, and the amount of chemicals in products. The Department will provide that information on a web site that consumers will be able to use to assist in making purchasing decisions. Eventually, some of the chemicals of concern could be banned for sale in Vermont for use in children’s products or require a label before they can be sold.

“Vermont has taken a proactive stance to deal with the issue of toxics in our products systematically, rather than chemical by chemical,” said Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz. “We will continue to work with the Health Department to make sure Vermonters’ environmental concerns are addressed.”

To date, Vermont has restricted the use of bisphenol A (BPA), some phthalates, some polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants (PBDEs), and some chlorinated phosphate (“Tris”) flame retardants in children’s products and a limited number of consumer products.

The governor said chemical regulation should be a national enterprise, not a state-by-state endeavor. The federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) allows the federal Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the use of chemicals but the TSCA has not been as effective at limiting exposure to toxic chemicals in consumer products as Gov. Shumlin or the Vermont Legislature desires, leading to this state action. Similar programs have been enacted in Washington and Maine for chemicals in children’s products. California has a program that includes all consumer products.

The law lists 66 chemicals of high concern to children and provides the authority for chemicals to be added or removed through rulemaking. Manufacturers who intentionally add these chemicals to their children’s products will have to notify the Vermont Department of Health.

Manufacturers must begin to submit disclosures biennially to the Health Department starting July 1, 2016. In 2017, and biennially thereafter, the Commissioner of Health shall review the list and recommend at least two chemicals of high concern to children for consideration by a working group. The working group will include scientists, health experts, industry representatives and other stakeholders appointed by the governor.

Meanwhile, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) and Seventh Generation, applauded the signing of Vermont Bill S239.

Vermont’s action on chemicals reform comes as Congress remains unable to reform the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has been unchanged since its passage in 1976. The Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition, which is led by ASBC and Seventh Generation, has urged Congress to modernize TSCA, while supporting transparency, innovation, and safety.

At the bill signing, Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle said, “It’s a proud day for Seventh Generation and for our home state of Vermont. The Toxic-Free Families bill will protect thousands of Vermont families from exposure to dangerous toxic chemicals and will, hopefully, spur other states to adopt similar reform to protect their families across the country.”

“While the country waits for the long-overdue reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, Vermont has joined other states in leading the way towards a healthier and safer economy,” said David Levine, CEO of ASBC. “The American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund and Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition applaud the Vermont legislature and Governor Shumlin for passing and signing into law a bill that will drive further innovation in the marketplace by seeking to advance safer chemicals.”

“Regulating the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products will create a stronger, healthier and more sustainable economy,” said Andrea Cohen, Executive Director of VBSR. “Giving consumers more information about dangerous chemicals found in products they purchase will expand the market in Vermont for clean, green and safe products.”

The American Sustainable Business Council and the ASBC Action Fund represent a membership network of more than 200,000 businesses nationwide, and more than 325,000 entrepreneurs, executives, managers and investors. The Council informs policy makers and the public about the need and opportunities for building a vibrant and sustainable economy. The Action Fund advocates for legislative change.

Source: Governor's office. VBSR 6.10.2014