State officials say federal toxic chemical laws too weak

Posted Dec. 02, 2009, at 1:57 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Environmental officials in Maine and a dozen other states issued a statement Wednesday saying federal laws to protect the public from toxic chemicals are too weak and states instead are leading the way.

The joint statement asks for changes in national laws so they will protect vulnerable populations by identifying and regulating the most troubling chemicals in consumer items and elsewhere. It also says manufacturers should provide regulators with enough information to show that chemicals used in their products are safe for humans and won’t harm the environment.

“Current federal chemical regulations fail to adequately protect the nation’s citizens and environment from toxic chemicals and unsafe products,” said David Littell, commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “The effects of exposure to toxic chemicals on human health, the environment and the economy are enormous and often avoidable.”

The 13 states’ Principles on Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act also says chemical and safety information should be widely available to businesses and the public.

In their statement, the states said they are the leading innovators in regulating toxics. Maine and Washington, for example, have policies to promote safer chemicals in children’s products and prioritize hazardous chemicals.

California’s Green Chemistry Initiative seeks to reduce and eventually eliminate toxic chemicals from consumer goods through a “benign by design” approach in which products are designed with safe chemicals. The effort, in which the state works directly with manufacturers, is a work in progress, said Maziar Movassaghi, acting director of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control.

“No one else in the world has attempted to do what California is attempting to do,” said Movassaghi, adding that the state’s policy represents “a fundamental shift of environmental protection.”

The states signing the statement are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

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