The Toxic Substances Control Act
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (15 U.S.C. §§2601 to 2697) directs the federal response to chemical safety. Congress recently amended TSCA with the enactment of the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2576 (2016)), which strengthens EPA’s ability to regulate chemicals.
Several states have adopted their own chemical safety laws designed to establish broad and permanent frameworks to systematically prioritize chemicals of concern, close data gaps on those chemicals and restrict their uses in those states.
Laws regulating bisphenol A, cadmium, chemicals in flame retardants, green chemistry, and chemical safety have been enacted in 32 states. Statutes in the states of California, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington authorize these states to develop comprehensive chemical regulatory programs.
State Regulation of Bisphenol A in Consumer Products
Concerns about potentially negative health effects from exposure to bisphenol A in many consumer products have led to responses by state legislatures. Known as BPA for short, bisphenol A serves as a hardening agent in a number of plastic products. It is used in baby bottles, sippy cups, and medical and dental devices and as coatings for food and beverage cans. New research has linked BPA exposure to accelerated puberty and an increased risk for cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has primary responsibility for regulating the compound, has expressed "some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children." In July 2012, the agency announced that it would no longer allow BPA in baby bottles and children’s drinking cups. The agency has not restricted its use in other consumer products.
In recent years, several state legislatures have taken up the issue. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted restrictions since 2009.
States With BPA Restrictions
State Regulation of Flame Retardants in Consumer Products
Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) are used widely as flame retardants in a number of consumer products, including mattresses, furniture foam, consumer electronics, wire insulation, draperies and upholstery. There is concern, however, about the potential environmental and human health effects of PBDEs. Studies have shown that PBDEs accumulate in the environment and living organisms. These compounds also have been associated with liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity in humans.
State legislative activity has focused on three types of PBDEs:
Twelve states and the District of Columbia regulate pentaBDE and octaBDE in certain consumer products. Of these, eight states and the District of Columbia also have laws regulating decaBDEs or have authorized studies into its environmental or human health effects. Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island require manufacturers of certain electronic products to notify the state if their products exceed the European Union’s maximum concentration values for PBDEs. Minnesota also requires that PBDE-free equipment, supplies and products be made available for purchase and use by state agencies.
States with Statutes on Flame Retardents
- New York
- Rhode Island
Cadmium in Children’s Consumer Products
Cadmium is a toxic metal that recently has been detected in some children’s consumer products, including in children’s jewelry, clothing accessories, and in paints and surface coatings on toys. Cadmium exposure has been associated with delayed brain development, kidney and bone damage, and cancer. Children are at particular risk because of common development behaviors of biting, chewing or sucking on toys and other products. Six states have laws limiting the use of cadmium on children’s products—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.
The passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires that manufacturers of children’s toys follow industry guidelines that limit cadmium on toys that are intended for the use of children under 14 years of age. It also pre-empts any state law following a different standard or approach (however, the law followed Connecticut’s standard, which was the most stringent.) The federal cadmium standard limits the soluble amount of cadmium in paints and surface materials to 75 parts per million. There are also voluntary industry standards that set limits for cadmium in children’s jewelry, but these are not mandatory under federal law. In October 2012, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has primary regulatory authority of use of the heavy metal in products, decided to terminate a petition to further regulate cadmium in children’s products.
States With Restrictions on Cadmium in Children’s Consumer Products
States With Statutes Related to Green Chemistry
Several states have laws addressing “green chemistry,” which promotes the use of less toxic chemicals. These laws may or may not be subject to the revised TSCA law, depending on how EPA addresses green chemistry compounds and interpretation of state and federal law.
The California law authorizes the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control to identify chemicals of concerns and safer alternatives. Connecticut establishes a Chemical Innovation Institute within the University of Connecticut’s Health Center. Maryland and New York promote the use of safer chemicals for school cleaning and maintenance. Minnesota’s law promotes the use of green chemistry. Michigan requires the Department of Environmental Quality to promote sustainable economic development through green chemistry. Oregon requires their Department of Environmental Quality to improve the development and use of safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.
States With Policies on Green Chemistry
- New York
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