Assembly Votes to Protect Children from Toxics
The New York State Assembly overwhelmingly passed the Child-Safe Products Act 104-39 in the early Wednesday evening, after minimal debate. The bipartisan show of support for children’s health was lauded by parents, teachers, nurses, health advocates, and others.
The measure, A. 3141a, sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, was backed by the JustGreen Partnership, a broad, diverse collaboration of over 50 organizations representing more than a million New Yorkers. It contains the following provisions:
- Establishment of a list of “chemicals of high concern” that appear on authoritative government lists as causing cancer, reproductive problems, learning and developmental disabilities, and other common chronic health problems.
- Identification of “priority chemicals,” starting with a dozen chemicals that include heavy metals and carcinogens.
- A requirement that manufacturers disclose their use of priority chemicals in products made for children ages 12 and under.
- Starting in 2016, a prohibition on sales in New York of children’s products containing priority chemicals. The bill also enables the State to leverage resources by working with a multi-state collaborative called the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse.
“Children are more sensitive to and are at an increased risk from chemical exposure. Currently, New York prohibits the use of dangerous chemicals on a chemical-by-chemical basis. 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. This bill sets up a regulatory framework in which dangerous chemicals in children's products can be banned. I urge the Senate to follow the Assembly's lead on this issue," said Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation.
"Protecting our children from exposure to toxic chemicals makes good public health sense. According to the World Health Organization, 25% of all chronic illnesses can be linked to environmental exposures. Eliminating the exposures during the child's formative years means a healthier future population," said Thomas Lowe, MPH, RN, COHN-S, Health and Safety Representative for the New York State Nurses Association. “ Our legislators should be proud of the legacy they are leaving for that future population.”
"We applaud the Assembly for passing this important bill as part of their green agenda," said Saima Anjam of Environmental Advocates of New York. "Targeting chemicals in children’s products is a key step to reducing harmful effects of unnecessary exposure in children and the environment."
"New York can take a quantum leap forward in protecting children from toxic chemical exposures by passing the Child-Safe Products Act," said NYPIRG Legislative Counsel Russ Haven. "The Assembly has done its part by passing Assemblyman Sweeney's comprehensive bill. It's now time for the Senate to stand up for children's health by passing legislation that will begin the process of identifying toxic chemical usage and getting toxics out of kids' consumer products."
Groups pointed to outdated and ineffective federal laws aimed at managing chemicals in the marketplace, especially the Toxic Substance Control Act, as well as enactment of policies similar to A3141a in other states, as why New York should take action. The U.S. Senate is advancing the Safe Chemicals act to reform TSCA, co-sponsored by both New York Senators, but there is no foreseeable action in the House.
“62,000 chemicals were assumed safe in 1976, and were allowed to be used widely in commerce without any meaningful information on environmental and health impacts. Now there roughly 80,000 chemicals used in commerce,” said Kathy Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York. “While work continues to fix our broken federal laws, New York’s children continue to bear the brunt of unchecked use of chemicals that can affect their health and development. Our State must take action now.”
Organizations in the JustGreen Partnership are now turning their attention to the New York State Senate.