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Spotlight on the States: Conservation Minnesota

29 Jan 2014  |   Kathleen Schuler

Our state leagues are working every day to hold state elected officials politically accountable and to take action on a wide range of state environmental and conservation priorities. Conservation Minnesota, our state league in the state, is helping pick up where the federal government has fallen short on protecting people from toxic chemicals. Kathleen Schuler, Conservation Minnesota’s Healthy Kids and Families Program Director, has written about their work in a blog post that’s also available on their website:

While we’d like to think that federal laws protect us from toxic chemicals in products we use everyday, this is not the case. The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), the federal law that regulates industrial chemicals that was enacted in 1976, has never been updated to account for the ever changing list of chemicals used in everyday products. This would be fine if it worked, but it doesn’t. Under TSCA only five chemicals have been restricted since 1976 and after 10 years of rulemaking, the EPA could not even regulate asbestos!  While TSCA reform proposals continue to bring debate in a divided Congress, we in Minnesota cannot wait for meaningful action to modernize TSCA . We can take action to ensure more Minnesotans are aware of the growing body of science showing harm from toxic chemicals.

States are saying that action to protect citizens, especially children, from unnecessary exposures to toxic chemicals cannot wait for Congress. During 2014 legislative sessions across the country, 33 states will consider chemical policies, including bans on formaldehyde, toxic flame retardants, bisphenol A, phthalates, lead and cadmium, as well as comprehensive policies on chemicals in children’s products.  Find additional information on the proposals at http://www.saferstates.com

Over the last 10 years, 34 states have already stepped up to enact 207 policies that restrict toxic chemical use. Minnesota is among the states leading the way, with eight policies enacted since 2007 to restrict chemicals and promote safer consumer products.  Our victories include a first-in-the-nation ban on BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, a ban on BPA in children’s food packaging (baby food jars, formula cans and toddler food), and a first in the nation ban on formaldehyde in personal care products for children under age 8.

Minnesota – along with Maine, Washington and California – is among the states with comprehensive chemical policies. Minnesota’s Toxic Free Kids Act of 2009 provided a framework for identifying priority chemicals to which children would most likely be exposed.  Now we have a list of nine priority chemicals that The Minnesota Department of Health identified over the past year.  The nine priority chemicals include:

Hormone disrupting phthalates (3), found in vinyl plastic and fragranced personal care products

Hormone disrupting bisphenol A, used in food can linings, polycarbonate plastic and thermal receipt paper

Neurotoxins, lead and cadmium, still found in vinyl plastic and children’s jewelry

Toxic flame retardants deca-BDE and HBCD, still widely found in textiles, foam furniture and electronics

Carcinogenic formaldehyde, used in personal care products and in textiles

For additional information visit: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/hazardous/topics/toxfreekids/

This list of the nine priority chemicals is helpful and an important step but it doesn’t help parents identify which products in stores contain these chemical products. That’s why Healthy Legacy, (www.healthylegacy.org) a statewide public health coalition dedicated to removing toxic chemicals from consumer products, is advocating for passage of the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2014 (TFKA). TFKA would require that manufacturers report if they are using a priority chemical in their children’s products as well as provide for incentives to manufacturers to gradually phase out these nine chemicals.

We urge the Minnesota legislature to build on their great work from 2009 in protecting children by passing the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2014 and helping Minnesota parents and consumers make safer consumer choices to protect children from exposure to toxic chemicals.

If you want to help Healthy Legacy, contact kathleen[at]conservationminnesota[dot]org.

(The photograph taken by Rocky Mountain Feline Resuce


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