MOMS, LEGISLATORS, ADVOCATES CALL FOR NEW LAW TO PROTECT KIDS FROM TOXIC CHEMICALS
Business leaders, legislative leaders, moms with young children and advocates gathered today to call upon the state legislature to pass a new law that would require safer substitutes for toxic chemicals in children’s products. They presented a wide array of products now on the market that contain chemicals linked to serious diseases and disorders, including learning disabilities, infertility, and cancer.
The proposed law would direct the Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health to develop a list of chemicals of high concern, prioritize within that list based on their use in children’s products, determine if manufacturers use those priority chemicals in products they make, and evaluate whether safer solutions are available. When safer solutions are possible, the DEC could require their use.
“There is a national movement underway that is trying to protect children from the hazards of priority chemicals such as lead, cadmium and mercury in children’s products. These chemicals are bioaccumulative and will damage our children’s health for many years after they come into contact with them. States such as Maine already have these laws in place and others are moving to join them. My bill S. 7070 would require manufacturers to disclose and discontinue products that contain priority chemicals and find safer alternatives. If a safer alternative exists the manufacturer will be banned from making the product and selling it on the market,” said Senator Perkins (D-Harlem). “New York needs to take a stand in protecting our future.”
“Children are more sensitive to and are at an increased risk from chemical exposure. Currently, New York identifies or prohibits the use of dangerous chemicals on a chemical-by-chemical basis. Just recently the Presidents’ Cancer Panel reported that nearly 80,000 chemicals are used in the country today, many of which are unstudied and largely unregulated. We must act to protect children's health from unnecessary toxic chemicals found in everyday products. It’s time to put health concerns first and we can start this process by protecting our children,” said Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, Chair, New York State Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation.
“As chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation committee, I believe the time is now to act on ridding children’s products of toxic chemicals, which requires manufacturers to find safe alternatives. Our children cannot afford for us to allow failures of the past to affect their futures,” said Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Antoine Thompson.
“Senator Perkins and Assemblyman Sweeney have demonstrated tremendous leadership in the legislature by introducing the Child Safe Products Act. The bill S 7070 and A10089 respectively, when passed, will protect New York’s most vulnerable population, our children, from the toxic terror of toys, trinkets, and other children’s products made with harmful chemicals,” said Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. "I am especially pleased that the children of Harlem, Washington Heights, and many places like that around the state can look forward to dollar stores that have shelves free of tainted toys when this bill passes.”
"This legislation is incredibly modest in concept, but will have a huge impact by reducing childhood illness, disease and injury. The bill simply says 'let's use the reliable information we have about toxic chemicals, figure out what toxics are in kids' products, and if we can use a safer chemical, let's do that. This will get us what parents, businesses and advocates all want: safer and healthier kids," said Russ Haven, Esq., Legislative Counsel for NYPIRG.
Recent laws have restricted the use of lead in children’s products, which triggered some manufacturers to replace it with an even more toxic heavy metal, cadmium, as was demonstrated by testing jewelry purchased at local stores. Advocates said more systemic reform was necessary to help prevent similar “regrettable substitution.”
“Because previous laws to protect children from toxic chemicals have only addressed single chemicals or at most a class of chemicals, manufacturers have in some cases switched to a similar, equally toxic chemical to replace those that are banned,” said Kathy Curtis, Policy Director for Clean New York. “We need a much more comprehensive approach so we can ensure our children are protected in cases where a chemical’s use is both dangerous and unnecessary.”
Several other states have already passed similar laws, and have begun implementing them. Maine and Washington have already developed lists of chemicals of high concern, and identified priority chemicals for further action.
Ms Sarah Beatty, President and CEO of Green Depot, said that “the proposed legislation provides for greater public and parental awareness of chemically contaminated children’s products quietly being marketed as safe. I believe that the State Legislature has taken a significant and responsible leadership role in authoring Assembly A10089 as well as Senate bill 7070,” said Ms. Beatty.
“The incidence of neurological impairments such as learning disabilities and autism continues to grow at an alarming rate,” said Stephen Boese, Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of NYS. “We know that about dozen common chemicals cause learning and developmental disabilities, while the list of chemicals suspected of causing them numbers in the hundreds. Yet, the manufacturing and marketing of children’s products with toxic chemicals continues. It is high time that we begin to decipher the toxic mysteries in everyday consumer products, hold manufacturers accountable for the products they bring to market, and focus on prevention of toxic chemical-related disease and disability. This is a huge public health issue,” Boese added.
"The American Sustainable Business Council, a growing coalition of business networks committed to public policies that support a just and sustainable economy representing over 35,000 businesses and social enterprises and over 150,000 entrepreneurs, owners, executives investors and business professionals, is committed to strong chemical policy because it will help increase consumer confidence, expand markets, create new jobs, and make NY businesses more competitive in the marketplace," says David Levine, co-founder of the Council.
A sampling of products purchased in the Capital Region revealed continued reliance on toxic chemicals in products. Tests using an XRF Analyzer (a hand-held device that measures the presence of certain elements in materials) found:
- 99,100 parts per million (or nearly 10%) of cadmium and 6,083 parts per million antimony (both heavy metals) in a pink flower pendant.
- 141,100 parts per million (or over 14%) of cadmium and 8,482 parts per million antimony in a circular flower-print metal pendant.
- 1,883 parts per million bromine and 573 parts per million antimony, indicative of a brominated flame retardant, in the lining of a baby “playtime bouncer.”
In addition, advocates showed children’s products purchased from dollar stores that contain or are likely to contain bisphenol A.
“I’m a mother of two young children, and lost my third to cancer. I am constantly striving to find products that are safe for them. It’s very hard to be confident that products are free from toxic chemicals.” said Christine Brouwer, founder and Executive Director of Mira’s Movement, as she held her six-month-old daughter Korrine. “Yesterday, we celebrated Mother’s Day. There is no better way to honor mothers everywhere than to ensure their children can grow up without the daily threat of toxic exposures.”
After an exhaustive review, the President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) today released a report identifying chemicals in the environment as a significant contributor to cancer in the United States. Advocates applauded the Bush-appointed panel for recognizing strong scientific research linking chemical exposure to cancer. Now the New York State legislature needs to catch up with new policies to protect public health.
“It’s official: we can’t win the war on cancer until we get serious about chemicals,” said Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD, MPH, Natural Resources Defense Council.
Many of the policy recommendations issued by the President’s Cancer Panel align with policy elements in the Child Safe products act.