2010 Active Year for Laws Addressing Environmental Health

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childhood environmental health logoIn a year that saw state finances plunge, health care reformed and Medicaid expanded, and new federal mandates imposed on the states, environmental health issues remained an important concern for state policy makers. In all 1776 bills were introduced on environmental health topics in 47 states, with 282 of those bills being enacted. Montana, North Dakota and Texas introduced no bills because their legislatures did not meet in 2010. Only in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, West Virginia and Wyoming were bills on environmental health introduced and not enacted.

No single environmental health topic overwhelmed the legislative sessions in 2010. Concerns about chemicals, pesticides, indoor air quality and healthy housing all commanded legislators’ attention, with no single issue dominating the agenda.

Reducing Chemical Exposures

The most active area of environmental health in 2010 related to chemicals—cadmium, lead, mercury, Bisphenol – A, bromated flame retardants, green cleaning products—with 802 bills being introduce and 133 of them being passed. With Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) reform being stalled in Congress, advocates of chemical policy reform turned to the states to regulate chemicals. In Minnesota, HB 2123 (Chap. 2009-37) requires the state to compile lists of chemicals of concern and priority chemicals used in consumer products, authorizing the state to participate in an interstate chemicals clearinghouse regarding chemicals in consumer products. Connecticut established a Chemicals Innovation Institute at the University of Connecticut Health Center, to foster green job growth and safe workplaces through clean technology innovation and safer alternatives to harmful chemicals. (HB 5128, Public Act No. 10-164).

Several states looked at asbestos. Illinois Senate Bill 2145 (Public Act 537) deletes provisions requiring local educational agencies to submit asbestos related response action contracts. Louisiana House Bill 895 (Act No. 295) provides that a building owner select the method of asbestos abatement to be used from those set forth in existing law or as provided in rules and regulations. South Dakota House Bill 1136 (Chap. No. 110) limits asbestos-related liabilities for certain successor corporations to the total gross assets of the transferor.

In Washington, SB 6468 (Chap. 287) allows the use of weatherization and structural rehabilitation funds to correct health and safety problems for low-income households, including the remediation of lead, asbestos or mold hazards.

Legislation addressing phosphorus was enacted in New Hampshire and New York. New Hampshire House Bill 350 (Chap. 282) prohibits the sale and distribution of household cleaning products containing phosphorus. New York Chap. 205 provides that no product used in dishwashers or food and beverage processing equipment may be sold which contains phosphorus above a certain level.

Brominated Flame Retardants

Brominated flame retardants are commonly used in children’s pajamas and household products to prevent the risk of fire. But the use of decabrominated diphenyl ether (decaBDE) flame retardants may cause health concerns, leading several legislatures to consider regulating the substance.

Maryland prohibits the manufacturing, leasing, selling, or distributing of products that contain decaBDE (SB 566, Chap. 320). Maine House Bill 1105 (Public Law 610) bans the manufacture and sale of shipping pallets and products manufactured from recycled shipping pallets that contain decaBDE. Vermont’s House Bill 444 (Act. No. 61) prohibits the sale or distribution of pentaBDE and octaBDE; prohibits the sale or distribution of decaBDE in certain consumer products.

Bisphenol-A

Although the federal government has not taken definitive action on bisphenol A (BPA), several states have looked into regulating the substance. In 2010, Maryland, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington join Connecticut and Minnesota in prohibiting the use of BPA in certain products.

Maryland Senate Bill 213 (Chap. 46) prohibits the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any bottle or cup intended to be filled with liquid or food and used by a child which contains bisphenol A. New York Senate Bill 3296 (Chap. 280) enacts the bisphenol A-Free Children and Babies Act which prohibits the manufacture, distribution and sale of pacifiers and beverage containers containing bisphenol A. Vermont Senate Bill 247 (Act No. 112) bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of infant formula or baby food stored in a plastic container, jar, or can that contains bisphenol A and the manufacture, sale, and distribution of any reusable food or beverage container containing bisphenol A. Washington Senate Bill 6248 (Chap. 140) prohibits the manufacture, distribution or sale of any bottle, cup, or other container, to be filled with any liquid, food, or beverage for consumption by children three years of age or younger that contains bisphenol A. The law also requires the recall of such products. Wisconsin Senate Bill 271 (Act No. 145) prohibits the manufacture and sale of certain baby bottles and cups for children that contain bisphenol A, creates labeling requirements.

In North Carolina, the legislature provided funding for research into ways to phase out pentaBDEs and bisphenol A in flame-retardant products. (North Carolina House Bill 945; Session No. 2009-574).

Product Stewardship

Programs designed to address the disposal of products containing hazardous products, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, were adopted in three states. Over 60 bills were introduced, but only five were adopted. Maine House Bill 1159 (Public Law 516) requires the Department of Environmental Protection to establish procedures to identifying products suitable for product stewardship, sets forth factors for consideration by the department, including the degree to which the product poses an adverse impact to the environment and possibilities for the development of opportunities for energy conservation and reduction of waste and toxicity, and requires producers of designated products to submit product stewardship plans. Rhode Island Senate Bill 854 (Resolution No. 339) requests the Department of Environmental Management to develop recommendations for establishing a comprehensive product stewardship approach to reducing environmental and health risks posed by the use or disposal of products. The law also requests recommendations include options to facilitate the creation of industry-managed stewardship organizations and strategies to implement the use of standards, certifications, and eco-labels to promote environmentally preferable products. Washington Senate Bill 5543 (Chap. 130) requires all mercury-containing lights collected by product stewardship programs or other collection programs be recycled. It also requires all persons, residents, government, commercial, industrial, and retail facilities and office buildings to recycle their end-of-life mercury-containing lights, requires producers of such lights sold for residential use to participate in the stewardship program, and prohibits the sale or purchase of bulk mercury.

Cadmium, Lead and Mercury in Consumer Products

Reports on the dangers of cadmium, lead and mercury in consumer products caused several legislatures to introduce bills regulating these substances. Regarding cadmium, the substance is banned in children’s jewelry and toys in California (SB 929, Chap. No. 313; CA SB 1365, Chap. No. 331). Connecticut passed similar legislation in 2010 (HB 5314, Public Act No. 10-113). Illinois enacted the Child-Safe Chemicals Act, regulating the use of cadmium (HB 5040, Public Act. No. 1379). New Hampshire amended current law limiting the amounts of lead, cadmium, mercury or chromium in packaging ( SB 50, Chap. No. 167).

Washington limited the use of copper, asbestiform, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury in vehicle brake pads (SB 6557, Chap. No. 147). California adopted similar legislation, though it did not specify which metals or chemicals were not permitted (SB 346, Chap. No. 307).

Illinois took some aggressive steps to curb the use of mercury. Disposal of mercury-containing fluorescent lighting, mercury thermostat collection, and the recycling and reuse of televisions (which contain mercury) were all adopted ( HB 2429, Public Act No. 393; SB 3346, Public Act No. 1295; SB 3721, Public Act No. 1416; HB 5907, Public Act No. 1154). House Bill 6201 extended the repeal date of the Mercury Switch Removal Act from 2011 to 2017 (Public Law No. 1281).

Maryland (Chap. No. 430) and Maine (Public Law No. 272) also adopted laws regarding mercury fluorescent lighting. Mercury disposal and recycling laws were adopted in North Carolina (Session Law No. 2010-180), Rhode Island (Public Law No. 2010-145), Tennessee (Chap. No. 840), Vermont (Act No. 79) and Washington (Chap. No. 130).

Laws related to lead in consumer products were adopted in 15 states. California adopted two laws regarding lead in consumer products—one limiting lead in toys (Chap. No. 331) and a second regulating lead in glass beads (Chap. No. 368). Maryland limits the amount of lead in plumbing products (Chap. No. 407).

Indoor Air Quality

The 2010 legislative sessions saw 50 bills enacted on Indoor Air Quality in 25 states. Florida, which experienced problems with corrosive dry wall and mold, adopted provisions requiring appraisers to adjust the assessed value of property to account for defective dry wall (Chap. 170) and requiring the training and licensing of mold assessors and remediators (Chap. 176). Persons providing mold remediation services must have adequate insurance to cover the costs of any negligent work (Chap. 106.) Kentucky established minimum mold remediation standards and provided for the adoption of regulations relating to mold remediation standards (HB 44, Act No. 89).

Laws regarding Carbon Monoxide detectors were adopted in Maine (SB 212, Public Law 162), New Hampshire (HB 120, Chap. 46), New York (AB 6093, Chap. 367), Washington (SB 5561, Chap. 313) and Wisconsin (SB 415, Chap. 12). These bills require detectors in single-family dwellings and multi-apartment buildings, newly constructed single-family dwellings and rental units.

Five states adopted laws addressing radon. Illinois passed laws on radon testing devises (H 1088, P.L. 195), radon disclosure (H 2439, P.A. 278) and School Building Radon Mitigation (H 4223, P.A. 417). Bills were also passed in Iowa, Kansas, Maine and Oregon.

Pesticides

Sixteen states adopted 33 bills on pesticides. Colorado (SB 34, Chap. 376) amends the Pesticide Act to authorize the Department of Agriculture inspect refillers and impose pesticide removal from refillable containers. Maryland House Bill 420 (Chap 412) authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to issue mosquito abatement orders on persons causing or allowing mosquitoes to breed on their property. Maine’s House Bill 1089 (Public Law 584) requires the Board of Pesticides Control to develop a registry of property requiring notification for pesticide applications and establishes requirements for land managers notifying persons on the registry. Nebraska requires an aerial pesticide business licenses for aerial applicators (L 254). New York Senate Bill 4983 (Chap. 85) prohibits the use of certain pesticides for commercial lawn application, flower bed application, golf course application, day care center and school outdoor applications, and residential application or for use by any state or local agency or school district for ornamental purposes or turf pest control.

Wisconsin AB 314 (Act No. 286) requires railroads to annually make information about its pesticide use available to railroad employees, those who own land adjacent to the railroad's rights-of-way and to the public. The law prohibits a railroad from requiring a person to work in an area in which a pesticide has been applied within a specified number of hours after such application.