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Environmental Health Group Expects Continued Action by U.S. States to Address Toxic Chemicals

Safer States, a network of diverse consumer organisations and coalitions with shared environmental and health concerns, recently issued a press release highlighting on-going legislative efforts at the U.S. state level to prohibit or regulate more strictly the sale and distribution of products containing hazardous chemicals. This organisation indicates that at least 21 states plan to introduce bills this year to identify and reduce exposures to untested and toxic chemicals in consumer products, adding that these efforts will “build on a decade of laws passed in 35 states to protect public health and the environment.”

While the overhaul of TSCA that was enacted into law last year enables the EPA to make a final decision on whether a chemical poses an unreasonable risk, thereby allowing the agency to pre-empt certain actions taken by individual states, Safer States believes the EPA faces “a tremendous task of prioritizing and thoroughly evaluating a massive backlog of chemicals currently in use” that could take “hundreds of years” to be completed at the proposed pace. States could therefore still play an important role by quickly identifying and restricting potentially hazardous chemicals when there is evidence of significant threats to public health.

Safer States expects action this year aimed at generating critical information about where, when and in what quantity toxic chemicals are being used by requiring disclosure and creating an inventory of chemicals in consumer products, in line with efforts pursued by Washington and Maine. States are also likely to address chemical hazards not covered under the new EPA authority, including materials regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. According to Safer States, this year’s bills will target toxic chemicals with established links to cancer and reproductive and developmental harm that are present in furniture, children’s products, electronics, food packaging and cosmetics, such as toxic flame retardants, phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, cadmium, formaldehyde and lead.

In all, Safer States expects the following actions to occur in the next year.

  • At least 14 states (Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) are expected to consider policies to identify chemicals of concern, require makers of consumer products to disclose chemicals of concern, and/or phase out chemicals of concern in various product categories, including fragrance disclosure, cleaning ingredient disclosure, and disclosure of toxics in children's products (including electronics).
  • At least 15 states (Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia) will likely consider policies to address toxic flame retardants in children’s products, furniture, mattresses and electronics.
  • At least six states (Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington) are likely to consider policies to address lead in children’s products, packaging, crumb rubber, electronics and other products.
  • At least six states (California, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Vermont and Washington) are expected to address bisphenol A, phthalates and/or perfluorinated compounds in food packaging.
  • Legislative action is also expected on safe cosmetics, triclosan/triclocarbon, green procurement, mercury, crumb rubber and perfluorinated compounds in drinking water.
Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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