US states enact chem control laws, more expected in 2011 - group

17 November 2010 13:00  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--At least 18 US states have passed chemicals control legislation, and measures seeking broad restrictions or targeting specific substances are expected in as many as 25 other states next year, an environmental group said on Wednesday.

The “Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families” (SCHF) coalition said that its first nationwide survey of state-level legislation found that the 18 states enacted 71 chemical safety laws over the past eight years.

The Safer Chemicals group said that state legislatures acted in large part because the US Congress failed to modernise the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has not been substantially amended since its enactment in 1976.

Separate but related bills are pending in the US House of Representatives and the Senate, but both HR-5820 and S-3209 have come under heavy industry criticism.

“States will continue to adopt their own chemical laws until Congress enacts a meaningful overhaul of TSCA,” the coalition said in its report.

Nearly 93% or 66 of the 71 state statutes imposed bans on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in infant feeding bottles or other mouth-contact toddler products, the coalition said.

Those same laws or separate items of legislation also ordered the phase-out of some flame retardant chemicals, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in home-use products.

Additionally, the state actions included provisions to reduce children’s exposure to lead and cadmium, and other statutes promoted more environmentally friendly or “green” cleaning products for home use.

In addition, the report said that four states - California, Maine, Minnesota and Washington - passed comprehensive chemicals controls programmes over the past three years.

Those product-specific and general controls statutes enjoyed broad bipartisan support, the coalition said, noting that of 9,000 roll-call votes on chemical controls legislation in the 18 states, 99% of Democrat and 73% of Republican legislators voted in favour.

SCHF said that many of the policy actions taken by states reflected chemical control reforms embodied in the two bills pending in the US House and Senate.

Among other provisions, those bills require chemical manufacturers to provide pre-market safety and health information on their products, provide prompt government action to restrict the most dangerous substances, and mandates for safer or greener alternative chemicals.

Those trends would continue in 2011, the coalition said.

“Until Congress enacts meaningful TSCA reform, more states will pass more laws to restrict specific toxic chemicals and to broadly regulate chemicals in products,” SCHF said.

The coalition said that state legislatures can prompt Congress to act by passing still more state-level restrictions and controls.

However, the coalition said, “Effective state policy action cannot substitute for broad federal reform that ... directly regulates the chemical industry and mobilises federal expertise and resources”.

Noting that the chemicals industry is opposed to and frustrated by “the growing patchwork of state laws”, the coalition said that “with strong federal policy leadership, state governments and businesses that use chemicals will find it less necessary to develop their own chemical restrictions”.

Nevertheless, SCHF said that federal reform of TSCA “should allow states to enact stronger protections” if local governments prefer.

The full report is available on the Safer Chemicals website.

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