This article was written by Sarah Doll, and was originally published by Safer States, a network of state-based environmental health organizations advocating for a future in which families and communities are educated about and protected from the effects of toxic chemicals.
Here at New Living, we are striving to build a better kind of business that supports this same goal. We extensively vet our vendors and products to make sure that we are offering the least toxic options available, and work to educate consumers, designers, builders, and painters. We support the national effort to update the 1976 Safe Chemical Act, and we won’t stop until all of us can live safer, healthier lives.
The past couple years have seen unprecedented changes in the toxic chemicals landscape across the United States. In the past nine years, over 80 chemical safety laws have been passed with an overwhelming margin of bi-partisan support in statehouses across the country.
But this is not a time to rest on our laurels. Across the country, families still come into contact with unregulated toxic chemicals. Every day, we are exposed to hundreds of different chemicals in our home and at our work—chemicals like formaldehyde and chlorinated Tris which are known carcinogens, and bisphenol-a (BPA) which contributes to health problems with reproductive development.
None of these chemicals are effectively regulated by the federal government: it is a widely held myth that manufacturers even have to prove a chemical’s safety before introducing it into products we buy. They don’t have to, and they won’t often even disclose which chemicals make up their products. Instead, they hide behind the claim that the information is proprietary.
Despite movement in the U.S. Senate, the path forward for federal regulation is unclear; the law overseeing toxic chemical regulation is over 30 years old, and its overhaul is being buffeted by strong opposition from the industry trade association which is backed by billions of dollars of influence. So while Congress tries to figure out how to change the rules on the federal level, it is up to the states to fill the gap in protection.
The Safer States coalition, made up of groups of environmental advocates, physicians, nurses, parents, and concerned citizens, stands in support of laws and policies which will lighten the toxic chemical burden that our families, loved ones and community carry.
The fact that we have been able to consistently pass important laws during troubling economic times is encouraging. While much of the chemical industry would have us believe that such laws are anti-business and anti-profit, many other organizations see the writing on the wall: The way that chemicals get into everyday household goods and then into our homes is unsafe and dangerous.
In addition to bi-partisan passage of many toxic chemicals laws, we see the support of many small businesses and manufacturing companies. David Levine, co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council, which represents more than 100,000 businesses and 200,000 business leaders and entrepreneurs, says:
“Today’s astute business leaders are concerned about the health and business impacts that could arise if the products they use or sell contain toxic chemicals.
They recognize that safer chemicals protect human and environmental health and cut the costs of regulation, hazardous waste storage and disposal, worker protection, health care costs, and future liabilities.
Such steps make U.S. businesses more competitive in a global marketplace where protections from toxic chemicals are more stringent, opening up growing market opportunities.”
This year, at least 28 state legislatures will consider proposals to address continued concerns about toxic chemicals in consumer products. From bans on toxic flame retardants, BPA and formaldehyde to public right-to-know laws, state legislatures will be considering critical proposals to protect their citizens from toxic chemicals.
In fact Vermont already passed a school “green” cleaning policy which will require manufacturers of cleaning products to only sell environmentally preferable products in schools.
We have seen proof that state legislation creates a ripple which has effects that reach further than the state’s borders. State legislation causes manufacturers to make nationwide changes, and sometimes it is the leader for federal regulatory changes. We look forward to another year of working to protect children and families from the debilitating effects of the toxic chemicals in our every day environment.