States Lead on Toxic Chemical Reform While Congress Lags Behind

Media Contacts
Jenny Levin

Republican Support for Safer Chemicals Policy Nearly Equals Democrats

A first-ever analysis of votes on state laws aimed at protecting the public from toxic chemicals found that 18 states have passed 71 chemical safety laws in the last eight years by an overwhelming margin with broad bipartisan support.   According to the report released today, of more than 9,000 votes cast by state legislators, 73% of Republicans and 99% of Democrats favored stronger protection of children’s health and the environment from dangerous chemicals, with equal support from governors of each party.  The report found that the pace of state policymaking on chemicals has more than tripled in eight years.

Two national health-based coalitions, SAFER States and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, released the new report – Healthy States: Protecting Families from Toxic Chemicals While Congress Lags Behind. The report release marks the failure of the 111th Congress to pass pending legislation to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) in the face of relentless, well-funded opposition from the chemical industry.

“States like Maryland are driven by the growing evidence of chemical harm, strong public outcry and the failure of Congress to act,” said Jenny Levin, Public Health Associate with Maryland PIRG. “We’re proud of the bipartisan support in Maryland for safe products, and we’ve come a long way, but there’s much more we need to do to adequately protect Marylanders from toxics in their everyday surroundings.”

“The states will continue to respond to public demand for safer products that won’t harm their family’s health,” said Sarah Doll, National Coordinator of SAFER States.  “We expect to see legislation to restrict toxic chemicals in products proposed in as many as 25 states next year.”

A growing body of new scientific research links toxic chemical exposures in early life to some of the most seriouspublic health threats of our time, such as increased risks of breast and prostate cancer, infertility, and learning and developmental disabilities. A recent poll conducted by The Mellman Group found that 78% of Americans are seriously concerned about the threat to children’s health from toxic chemicals in day-to-day life. Heeding the aggressive opposition of chemical industry lobbyists rather than the support of the American electorate, Congress failed to pass TSCA reform legislation three times in last six years.

The 111th Congress will soon come to a close without taking action on the currently pending TSCA reform legislation – H.R. 5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act introduced by Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), and S. 3209, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

Maryland was highlighted in the report as a bipartisan leader in toxic chemical reform. Five toxics bills became law with the signature of Governor Martin O’Malley in 2009 and 2010.

Nation-wide Highlights of Findings from the Healthy States Report:

  • Increasingly, the states have passed new laws to phase out chemicals that threaten children’s health and restrict toxic chemicals in consumer products. In the last eight years, both the number of state chemical laws and the number of states passing toxic chemical reforms have tripled.
  • State lawmakers passed tough laws on toxic chemicals with an overwhelming margin of support. More than 8,000 (or 89%) of the more than 9,000 roll-call votes cast by state legislatorsfavored tighter toxic chemical regulation, a margin of support greater than 8–1.
  • Tough state laws on toxic chemicals also received broad bipartisan support. Of the votes cast, about 99% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans favored stronger protections of children’s health and the environment from dangerous chemicals, with equal support from governors of each party.
  • State laws targeting specific chemicals and products that threaten children’s health received the greatest attention and support. Sixty-six laws banned bisphenol A (BPA) in baby and toddler products (with 98% support), phased out toxic flame retardants (PBDEs) in home products (93%), reduced children’s exposure from common products containing lead (88%) and cadmium (86%), and promoted green cleaning (88%).
  • State legislators strongly supported recent state laws that create new programs for broad regulation of toxic chemicals. Five comprehensive chemical policy reform laws passed in fourstates in the last three years—with the support of 84% of all votes cast, including a majority of Republicans (57%)—and were signed by governors from both parties in California, Maine,Minnesota, and Washington State.
  • The policy actions taken by the states advance many of the same chemical policy reforms proposed in Congress. Both the new state chemical laws and proposed federal legislation (H.R. 5820 and S. 3209) require manufacturers to provide information on chemicals, mandate quick action on the most dangerous chemicals, and promote safer alternatives and greener chemistry.

In 2011, Maryland PIRG will continue to win stronger statewide protections for children’s health by working with state lawmakers to introduce a comprehensive chemical safety program similar to those enacted in Maine, Washington, and Connecticut. Maryland PIRG will also work to strengthen the current BPA ban to include food containers and infant formula containers, a source of exposure that puts fetuses, nursing infants, and bottle fed infants at risk. 

staff | TPIN

This Earth Day, put our planet over plastic

We are working to move our country beyond plastic — and we need your help. Will you make a gift in honor of Earth Day to help us keep making progress?