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Flashback: Vermont legislators craft and pass bill to protect consumers from dangerous chemicals


Chemical legislation

(NaturalNews) Vermont's S.239 bill, which became law in 2014, gives the state of Vermont's Department of Health total autonomy on how to classify, list, label, minimize or prohibit hazardous chemicals in products made anywhere and sold in Vermont. [1]

Prior to this bill, each toxic chemical in the rising tide of toxins in household products, agricultural products, cosmetics and toys had to be isolated and legislated upon one by one. [2]

It took months of haggling in the house and/or senate and then potentially signed into law for each chemical that needed to be restricted or banned.

S.239 removes time consuming legislative haggling for banning toxic chemicals

For example, the senate in Vermont had to draft a law in a previous session, S81, to ban all currently marketed fire retardant chemicals from furniture, household items and toys. The bill swept with unanimous approval through the Senate and House.

Flame retardant chemicals, particularly chlorinated Tris, are very common in consumer products like couches, car seats, high chairs and other household and children's items. The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) claimed this bill was the toughest in the nation.

It's ban includes all forms of fire retardants as well as chlorinated Tris and all or any products that might contain any of the fire retardants included in the bill. There have been a few attempts at creating substitutes that are less toxic. They all outgas (leak out) toxic fumes or contaminate dust particles that can be breathed in.

Chemical fire retardants don't work to slow fires once they start. Research in California has determined that firefighters have up to three times the toxic load of Tris and other fire retardants compared to other Californians.

During fires, the gases from the fire retardants escape from burning objects with a fury. So various firefighter groups have been totally behind bills that restrict or ban fire retardants. [3]

This S239 bill gives the Vermont Health Department all it needs to do its own research, isolate toxic chemicals, and identify the manufacturers who use them to restrict or ban toxic chemicals in materials used for any products that contain them without going through annual legislative processes for each chemical as required in the past.

Vermont's motivation to draft and pass S.239

Federal Senate bill proposal S.1009, under discussion in Washington DC, intended ostensibly to improve and strengthen the 1976 Chemical Safety Improvement Act, which would amend the current federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

But Vermont attorney general Bill Sorrell and eight other state attorneys from across the nation smelled a couple of rats in the text. They spotted language that could undermine the states' rights to be tougher on toxic substances than the original TSCA.

The nine attorney generals protested in a letter to Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and members of the committee: "The Chemical Safety Improvement Act ... would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in a manner that we believe could, in its current form, seriously jeopardize public health and safety by preventing states from acting to address potential risks of toxic substances and from exercising state enforcement powers." [4]

Vermont's Bill Sorrell commented, "We're suspicious that the chemical industry is in support of this draft legislation, and we're not sure they have Vermont's best interests at heart." [4] In other words, chemical industry lobbyists have access to DC's national legislators and legislative committees more than individual states.

Senior counsel to the California attorney general Michael Troncoso testified, "As currently written, S.1009 will not give us more protection. To the contrary, it would cripple the states' power to protect our environment and the health and welfare of our citizens." [4]

Federal S.1009 motivated Vermont to draft and pass S.239 quickly to preempt watered down federal environmental laws regarding toxic chemicals before those laws could negate Vermont's tougher stance on toxic chemicals.

Sources for this article include:

[1] http://openstates.org/vt/bills/2013-2014/S239/

[2] http://vtdigger.org

[3]http://vtdigger.org

[4]http://vtdigger.org

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