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Toxics policies predictions for 2017

The tide has shifted on toxic chemicals. It’s no longer a question of whether or not to move into the future with safer alternatives; it’s a matter of how and where to start. States to continue to lead the way, even as they cooperate with and inform federal processes.

At least 21 states will propose policies in the next year to identify and reduce exposures to untested and toxic chemicals in consumer products. These bills build on a decade of laws passed in 35 states to protect public health and the environment.

Despite a newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act, the US EPA will nevertheless face a tremendous task of prioritizing and thoroughly evaluating a massive backlog of chemicals currently in use. At the pace proposed, it could take EPA hundreds of years to assess only the chemicals produced in quantities over a million pounds a year.

Among the responsibilities delegated to states, we will see actions designed to:

  • Act quickly to protect public health. Because the pace of federal evaluation is so slow, the nation relies on state authorities to recognize and act quickly when there is evidence of significant threats to public health from chemicals already in use.
  • Generate critical information about where, when, and in what quantity toxic chemicals are used. States such as Washington and Maine have taken the lead in requiring disclosure and creating an inventory of chemicals in products. These inventories are a critical tool for informing consumers, health researchers, public health officials—and even federal regulators.
  • Address chemical hazards not covered under the new EPA authority.  While methods for evaluating chemicals under TSCA is improved, there are still significant flaws in public health protections for materials such as those regulated by the Food and Drug Administration or the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

This year’s bills take aim at toxic chemicals with established links to cancer, reproductive and developmental harm that are included in furniture, children’s products, electronics, food packaging and cosmetics.  Chemicals under scrutiny include toxic flame retardants, phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, cadmium, formaldehyde and lead.

Even as the new presidential administration adopts an anti-regulation position, state legislatures, consumer advocacy campaigns, and leading corporate entities like Target, which announced an ambitious new program last week, continue to advance safer chemistry. Demand for healthier communities and safer products continues to grow regardless of the political climate. State leaders will continue to step up to create community protections.

 Highlights of 2017 state policy

Identification and Disclosure of Toxic Chemicals: At least 14 states will consider policy to: identify chemicals of concern; and/or require makers of consumer products to disclose chemicals of concern; and/or phase out chemicals of concern in various product sectors including fragrance disclosure, cleaning ingredient disclosure and disclosure of toxics in children’s products including electronics.  (AK, CA, ME, MA, MI, MN, MS, MT, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA)

Toxic flame retardants: At least 15 states will consider policy to address toxic flame retardants in children’s products, furniture, mattresses and electronics. (AK, CT, RI, MD, ME, MN, MA, MS, NJ, NM, NY, TN, WA, WV, VA)

Lead: At least 6 states will consider policy to address lead in kids’ products, packaging, crumb rubber, electronics and other products. (MD, MI, NJ, NY, RI, WA)

Food packaging: At least 6 states will consider addressing the endocrine disruptors BPA, phthalates and/or perfloruinated compounds in food packaging  (CA, MA, MS, NY, VT, WA)

Additional approaches: We also will see policies addressing safe cosmetics, triclosan/triclocarbon, green procurement, mercury, crumb rubber and perflourinated compounds in drinking water.

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