April 7, 2008
HOUSE BILL 5601: BANNING CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS CONTAINING LEAD, PHTHALATES OR BISPHENOL-A
By: Meghan Reilly, Legislative Fellow
You asked for information on HB 5601, particularly on its purpose, and a summary of public testimony on the bill.
HB 5601, An Act Banning Children's Products Containing Lead, Phthalates or Bisphenol-A, bans toys and other articles intended for children that contain lead and certain other chemical compounds. It requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner to compile a list of substances that pose a significant human health risk and authorizes her to take part in an interstate clearinghouse to classify chemicals according to the risks they pose, effective October 1, 2008. It also requires the UConn Board of Trustees to create an Innovation Institute to help Connecticut industries evaluate hazardous substances, effective from passage. The provisions defining hazardous substances would take effect on January 1, 2009.
At a February 27 public hearing, the bill's opponents pointed to the phthalates' 50-year use in children's toys and inconclusive studies on toxic effects, pointing to research showing the chemical was safe in low doses. Proponents of the bill cited a link between the chemicals and attention disorders, low IQs, cancers, early puberty, and childhood obesity. They expressed concern for environmentally stressed communities housing incinerators, where many of these products would likely be destroyed. Proponents also pointed to an economic angle: changing market demands and the need to meet European Union standards to continue trade.
HB 5601 SUMMARY
Ban on Certain Toys and Other Children's Products
The law prohibits the introduction or delivery into commerce of a banned hazardous substance. This includes a toy or other article intended for children's use that contains a hazardous substance (CGS § 21a-335(p)). The bill specifically defines as a hazardous substance in this context, a toy or other article:
1. marketed for children age 12 or younger containing more than (a) 40 parts per million (ppm) of lead, or (b) di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutylphthalate (DBP), or butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) in concentrations greater than one-tenth of 1% (.001); or
2. marketed for children age three or younger and capable of being put in a child's mouth, containing (a) diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), or di-n-octylphthalate (DnOP), in concentrations greater than one-tenth of 1%; (b) bisphenol-A; or (c) other chemicals included on the list the bill requires DEP to compile.
DEP List of Harmful Chemicals
The bill requires the DEP commissioner to compile a list of substances determined, in peer-reviewed scientific studies or federal publications, to pose a significant risk to human health, including substances that:
1. are carcinogenic,
2. harm human reproduction or development,
3. damage the nervous system,
4. disrupt hormonal rhythms, or
5. are toxic.
It authorizes the commissioner to participate in an interstate clearinghouse to (1) classify chemicals used in commercial products according to whether they are of high, moderate, low, or unknown concern and (2) organize and manage available data on chemicals.
The data must include information on their use, hazards, and environmental concerns. The commissioner, through the clearinghouse, may also (1) produce and inventory information on (a) safe alternatives to specific chemical uses and (b) model policies and programs related to these alternatives and (2) provide technical assistance to businesses and consumers on safe chemical alternatives. The commissioner may participate in other related activities.
The bill requires the UConn Board of Trustees to establish an Innovation Institute affiliated with the UConn Health Center. The institute must help industries in Connecticut (1) evaluate hazardous substances used in production and materials and (2) to suggest safer alternatives. Within one year after it is established, the institute must:
1. complete an assessment of key chemical uses in Connecticut, taking into consideration (a) the REACH (“Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals”) registration or authorization list used in the European Union, (b) the amount of chemicals used, and (c) their occupational or environmental effects;
2. create a website with links to safer chemical alternatives, information on substances of concern, chemical policy development, and related information; and
3. identify resources for developing a more complete understanding of the state economy in relation to carcinogens and chemical use. These include (a) products made; (b) export markets; (c) emerging technologies or products; (d) estimates of potential health and economic costs of chemical-related illness; (e) cancer, asthma, neurotoxicity, and endocrine disruption rates; and (f) patterns of potential chemical exposure.
ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE PUBLIC HEARING
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal supported the bill, stating that it would put Connecticut at the forefront of a movement seeking an objective, measurable standard for toxic substances. Citing concerns about dangerous toys from China, he said the bill was an immediate and direct way to make a difference.
Sarah Uhl of Clean Water Action alluded to studies pointing out the link between toxins and attention deficit disorder and lower IQs. She pointed to the fiscal benefits: the bill would allow Connecticut manufacturers to meet the standards to continue business with the European Union, as well as lower education and health care costs for affected children.
Dennis McBride, Milford health director, and Mary Jane Williams, a nurse, both emphasized the need for precautionary measures even if the cause and effect relationship was not fully established scientifically. Kathy Murphy, an environmental nurse consultant with the Connecticut Nurses Association, also cited the precautionary principle, adding that low levels of toxins can be dangerous in aggregate. She also linked phthalates with asthma and pointed to a stricter European Union standard for the chemicals.
Ann Berman, chair of the Environmental Concerns Coalition in Milford, and Annamarie Beaulieu, representing the Connecticut Public Health Association, both focused on two points: the chemicals' impact during pregnancy and the range of health issues associated with them, namely early puberty, childhood obesity, and prostate and breast cancers.
Gladys Ellis, a member of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, cited concerns about incineration and landfills, and the chemicals' effect on environmentally stressed, low-income communities. Dr. Mark Mitchell, president of the coalition, also expressed concern about incineration.
Martha Kelly and Nancy Simcox of Connecticut Council on Occupational Health and Safety cited 12 pages of recalls early 2008 to show how pervasive toxic toys are.
Cynthia Luppi, New England program director for Clean Water Action, cited a congressional investigation into industry influence of the Food and Drug Administration's review of Bisphenol-A. She acknowledged that the scientific debate is ongoing but pointed out that market forces are moving retailers away from products with these chemicals and urged Connecticut to join the movement.
Martin Mador, legislative and political chairperson for the Connecticut Sierra Club, and Lindsey Atiyeh, a Simsbury High School senior, also supported the bill.
Dr. Julie Goodman, a certified toxicologist at Gradient Corporation, supported by the American Chemistry Council, testified in opposition to the bill. As a member of a panel devoted to reviewing studies on the safety of Bisphenol-A, she said that the chemical was not harmful in low doses. When asked by Representative Urban about synergistic studies of Bisphenol-A and other potential toxins, Dr. Goodman said she was not aware of any study on point. Representative Moukawsher asked about how the concern over the chemicals' effect arose, and Dr. Goodman referenced a study in the 1990's connecting prostate weight with Bisphenol-A. Asked by Representative Bye if the chemicals mimicked estrogen in the body, Dr. Goodman acknowledged that the chemical had estrogen-like properties in high doses. She pointed out that the European Union had established an acceptable dose which they later raised, having discovered that humans could handle a higher amount of the chemical. Representative Davis inquired about long-term studies, and Dr. Goodman said several studies had been performed on generations of laboratory rats. When asked by Representative Bye about the link between Bisphenol-A and fetal and infant brains and behavior, Dr. Goodman said there were no conclusive studies.
Karyn Schmidt, a member of the American Chemistry Council's Phthalate Esters Panel, said that phthalate esters are well-tested, having been used to make toys flexible for 50 years. In 2002, the Consumer Protection Safety Commission said the chemical was safe and, according to Ms. Schmidt, studies have shown no genital malformation or adverse health effect from the chemicals. Representative Urban inquired further about the synergistic effects. Ms. Schmidt said that it was an emerging science, but that there should not be cause for concern.
Steve Rosario, northeast regional director of the American Chemistry Council, told the committee that the Toxic Substances Control Act is successfully regulating the chemical industry and urged the committee to move ahead cautiously because chemistry is a challenging and often confusing science. Senator Meyer pointed out the need to identify objective studies to avoid being caught between the idealism in protecting children and industry self-interest.
Joan Lawrence, vice president of standards and regulatory affairs for the Toy Industry Association, said that the bill created unrealistic standards. She urged the committee to align with a federal standard presently being determined.