What We Can Do
Toxic chemicals do not belong in the human body. But as long as industries keep putting them in products, we will continue to be exposed. Although most people assume that if a product is being sold the government has screened it to ensure safety — this is simply not the case. Not only do products contain chemicals about which we know very little, they also contain chemicals we know are harmful. Although there are steps we can take to reduce our exposure, we cannot shop, eat or exercise our way out of the problem of toxic chemicals in commerce, in our homes, and in us. Government and industry action to phase out these chemicals in favor of safer alternatives is needed now.
What States Should Do:
People should be able to buy toys and other products without fear of toxic ingredients that might harm them or their children. Fortunately, there is a sensible solution. States should adopt common sense measures that:
• Prohibit the use of dangerous chemicals in products, especially those targeted at kids. For example, lead, cadmium, and phthalates, commonly found in products should be eliminated and only the safest chemicals and materials should be allowed.
• Arm consumers with useful information to make safer buying choices. Product manufacturers should be required to test and disclose the chemical contents of their products.
• Provide information and technical resources to businesses so they can make products safe for consumers and invest in green economic development to spur innovation in products that are safe for consumers.
What the Federal Government Should Do:
The federal government's law regulating industrial chemicals is 30 years old. Its outdated and doesn't work. We need to reform this law to protect consumers. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) must be amended to:
• Require complete health and safety data on industrial chemicals and make them publicly available
• Phase out dangerous chemicals
• Expand the public Right to Know on toxic chemicals
• Promote innovation for safer alternatives
Policy Action on Phthalates
The Federal Government should require that phthalates be replaced with safer alternatives. In the absence of federal policy, each state and local government should ban the use of phthalates in every application for which there is a safer substitute. The California legislature has passed a “toxic toys” bill, which Governor Schwarzenegger must act on by October 14, 2007. AB 1108 (Ma) would ban the use of six phthalates in children’s products and toys, modeled after the European Union’s current ban. Several other states have pending policies addressing phthalates, including Maryland and New York.
Policy Action on PBDEs
U.S. production of penta- and octa-BDE was suspended under a voluntary agreement between USEPA and Great Lakes Chemical Company. But deca-BDE, which constitutes over 80% of PBDE production, is still widely used. Deca-BDE breaks down into penta- and octa-BDE, which is much more easily taken up into peoples’ bodies. Therefore, federal action is required to ban the use of all PBDEs in every application for which there is a safer substitute. In the absence of federal policy, each state government should enact policies to phase out PBDEs.
Some states have already taken action, and action is pending in several others. California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington have reinforced the voluntary EPA agreement by enacting penta- and octa-bans. Many of these bills include a requirement to study the availability of safer alternatives to deca and report back to the legislature. Hawaii, Maine, and Washington have required safer substitutes for deca-BDE in certain applications. Some companies have agreed to eliminate their use of deca-BDE by a certain date. This state- and market-level momentum should continue and accelerate in 2008–2009, in order to fuel broader chemical policy reform in these states, and create demand for federal chemicals policy reform.
Policy Action on Bisphenol A
Federal action is required to ban the use of Bisphenol A in every application for which there is a safer substitute. In the absence of federal policy, each state government should enact policies to phase out BPA. BPA was removed from the ‘toxic toys’ bill that California's Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law in October 2007. Several states, including Maryland, Minnesota, and New York, have pending bills that address BPA in toys and children’s articles.
Chemicals Policy Reform
The current Toxic Substances Control Act should be expanded. For some ideas on how we can make TSCA a more comprehensive policy, see below.
The US Needs a New Policy on Chemicals (doc)