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Minnesota’s Toxic Free Kids Act: Who Could Vote Against It?

12 Jun 2014  |   Kathleen Schuler

Tags: Toxics

Minnesota came close to passing the Toxic Free Kids Act (TFKA) in 2014. Close, but not quite. TFKA would have required manufacturer reporting on children's products containing nine toxic chemicals identified by the Minnesota Department of Health as especially harmful to children. The bill would have provided parents with critical information about these toxic chemicals to help them choose safer products for their kids.  Who could vote against protecting kids? Well, not many state legislators would be happy about answering to constituents, if they voted against a bill like this. Unfortunately no vote was taken on TFKA. 

What Happened?

Introduced in 2013, the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2014 passed through multiple committees in each house. In 2014 it made it’s way into the House version of Omnibus Supplemental Finance bill.  Because there was no comparable language in the Senate version, the Omnibus Supplemental Finance Conference Committee needed to approve the language. Everything depended on Senate support to include TFKA in the omnibus bill.  This bill was one of the last pieces to be decided in the final days of the legislative session. In spite of Governor Mark Dayton's request that the Toxic Free Kids Act be included in the final bill, the Senate refused to accept it. Even though TFKA should have mustered broad support in both bodies, this common sense policy got caught up in politics. The Senate listened to industry groups instead of standing with Minnesota families to protect children. Industry groups opposed to the bill included the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the American Chemistry Council, the Toy Industry Association, General Mills and others. 

History of the Toxic Free Kids Act

In 2009 Minnesota passed the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2009, a bill that required the Minnesota Department of Health to develop a list of chemicals of high concern and a list of priority chemicals in children’s products. The bill originally also required that manufacturers report to the state agency if they were using any of the priority chemicals in their children’s products and gave the state agency authority to require eventual phase out of a chemical.  In order to pass the bill, the reporting and regulation part of the bill were eliminated. 

In 2011, MDH published their list of nine priority chemicals for which there was compelling evidence of adverse health impacts and to which children would likely be exposed. This list includes three phthalates, two brominated flame-retardants, lead, cadmium, bisphenol A and formaldehyde. These chemicals are linked with numerous adverse health effects including endocrine disruption, cancer, reproductive harm, learning and developmental disabilities and respiratory problems.  While the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2009 provided a list of toxic chemicals that expose children, TFKA 2014 would have provided actual product level information to help inform parents. 

Unfinished Business

Even though the Toxic Free Kids Act failed to pass in 2014, Conservation Minnesota and Healthy Legacy have built the foundation for passage in 2015.  We significantly raised the legislative, media and public profile of the issue and have built strong support by the Governor and state agencies. We recruited a new business voice in support of the bill, the Metro Independent Business Association.  We also mobilized hundreds of citizens to take action on this issue.  The Toxic Free Kids Act will be back in 2015 and next time there will be votes!

(Kathleen Schuler is the Healthy Kids and Families Program Director, Conservation Minnesota and Co-Director Healthy Legacy)

(Spray Bottle image courtesy of judith511’s Flickr page)

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