Council Questions Bill To Ban Chemicals

A bill that is tucked into a package of legislation the state Assembly leadership is calling an Earth Day commemoration is drawing the ire of the Business Council of New York State.

The legislation, S.501-B/A.6296-A, is sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Island, and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, D-Long Island, and is described as a bill to regulate toxic chemicals in children’s products, requiring notification to consumers about children’s products containing chemicals of concern and dangerous chemicals, as well as banning children’s products containing dangerous chemicals like organohalogen flame retardants, tris and asbestos. The measure would go into effect March 1, 2020, and manufacturers and retailers would have until Jan. 1, 2023, to either remove the dangerous chemicals from the toys and other children’s products or remove them from the New York market.

Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, voted against the legislation when it went before the Assembly’s Codes Committee, but the bill has passed the Environmental Committee, Codes Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. The bill has also been approved by the state Senate, meaning it will be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

The legislation includes a list of roughly 100 chemicals deemed to be dangerous to children. The bill regulates chemicals in products marketed to children under the age of 12 that include toys, car seats, supplies, personal care products, sucking/teething items, jewelry, bedding, furniture, and clothes. The new regulations only apply to new products, not toys or goods sold secondhand.

“Currently, New York identifies or prohibits the use of dangerous chemicals on a chemical by chemical basis,” Englebright wrote in the legislation’s justification memo. “This approach is especially problematic for children’s products since children are often more vulnerable to smaller amounts of chemicals. Several other states, including Washington, California, and Maine have adopted more comprehensive chemical policies. This legislation is modeled after those states and is intended to prevent the use of dangerous chemicals and ensure the use of safer chemical alternatives in children’s products.”

If the measure is signed into law, toys containing certain materials such as toxic flame retardants would be banned outright beginning in 2023.

State regulators would be tasked with compiling a list of potentially harmful chemicals and maintaining public records about the presence of those materials in toys. Supporters said the measure will protect children from the chemicals. They noted that a handful of states, including California, already have similar laws on the books.

“There’s well-documented evidence that these chemicals are harmful to children,” said Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Island, who is the sponsor of the legislation, known as the Child Safe Products Act. “I have a 10-month-old child. I watch him put everything he can get his hands on in his mouth.”

Business Council officials say the legislation isn’t quite that simple, however, noting the Washington legislation Englebright mentions has cost businesses up to $27.6 million and has a more limited scope than the New York legislation. Maine’s Kids Product Safety Act, meanwhile, was such a problem that it was eventually rewritten by the Maine state legislature.

Specifically, council officials say the New York law’s definition of a children’s product is overly broad and will likely impact entire manufacturing, business and retail sectors that could have discontinue commonly used products; does not include a de minimis concentration exemption for items of high concern; and does not include regulatory bodies to consider exemptions for products where there is no risk of exposure to harmful products because there is no “pathway to exposure.”

Business Council officials suggest relying on the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act which was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The federal law has been passed since initial versions of the New York law were proposed years ago in the state Legislature.

“The Business Council is concerned with any legislation that calls for state specific chemical bans and restrictions,” the council wrote in a legislative memo opposing the chemical restriction legislation. “This bill will create uncertainty for New York’s manufacturers who will not know from year to year which chemicals will make the priority list for bans until the list is made public. Chemical regulation in particular is better handled on a national level, rather than having different states with varying standards for chemical and product safety. This in turn will further put New York manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage with those in other states and discourage new businesses from relocating to or expanding in New York.”

Other pieces of legislation in the package announced by the Assembly include:

¯ An amendment to the state Constitution which would ensure clean water and air are treated as fundamental rights for New Yorkers, protecting both the environment and public health (A.2064, Englebright).

¯ Another bill would raise water-efficiency standards for plumbing fixtures (A.2286, Hunter)

¯ A bill that would require the Department of Environmental Conservation to publish a list every two years of geographic areas in the state that are adversely affected by existing environmental hazards (A.1779, Peoples-Stokes).

¯ Legislation banning the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. There has been extensive scientific research into chlorpyrifos, which is toxic to the human brain and nervous system, and is especially dangerous for children, infants and women who are pregnant (A.2477-B, Englebright).

¯ Reduce the amount of mercury in light bulbs (A.2501-A, Englebright).

¯ Give the DEC commissioner the ability to protect species by designating animals, like the giraffe, as vulnerable species and banning the sale of items made in part or in whole from the such species (A.6600, Englebright).

¯ Commemorate April 22, 2019, as the 49th anniversary of Earth Day (K.326, Griffin).

¯ Recognizes June 8, 2019, as Dragonfly Day in New York state (K.318, Thiele).

“Our Earth Day agenda will provide the public with the opportunity to pass a constitutional amendment safeguarding clean air and water, and a healthful environment. Other bills will keep dangerous pollutants and chemicals away from children and out of our environment,” Englebright said. “I am proud that today’s legislation will protect our health, reduce the waste of clean water and help to shield vulnerable species such as giraffes from extinction.”

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