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Big businesses try to derail Vermont's toxic chemical regulation bill

Monday, May 05, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Vermont, chemical regulations, toxic chemicals

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(NaturalNews) A number of big corporations, the latest among them IBM, have joined to oppose a Vermont government proposal to regulate chemicals in children's products that the state's health department considers potentially harmful.

According to local reports, the technology giant's decision to oppose the measure is the latest among a list of companies and organizations that includes Walmart, Keurig Green Mountain, the Toy Industry Association and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

"If you're going to be considering potentially taking away somebody's livelihood, we need to be sure there's an actual harm, an actual exposure and a risk from those products," Janet Doyle, a representative for IBM, told the Vermont Legislature's Fish and Wildlife Committee.

'There needs to be some sort of standard'

Earlier this year the Vermont Senate passed one of the nation's toughest policies to regulate toxic chemicals found in a number of consumer products, business lobbyists have said. The groups, which are opposed to the measure, have successfully downsized it, "limiting the scope of the chemical reporting requirement to children's products. The legislation creates a program comparable to Washington state's program," VTDigger.org reported, adding:

The large corporations are concerned that even if the law only applies to children's products, the bill cracks the door open for further regulation and will cost their companies thousands in reporting fees.

Companies fear Vermont's program would impose costs on businesses for reporting chemicals that might be safe in small amounts. According to Bill Driscoll, vice president of the trade organization Associated Industries of Vermont, they want the state to make a stronger case when requiring companies to label or remove chemicals found in their products.

"That's why I think there might need to be some sort of standard, not just that it is linked to these health effects, but at what level of exposure do you need to actually have those effects," Driscoll told lawmakers.

"If it's something that you need to eat a truckload a day for a year to have a cancer risk, then that's not a really a meaningful risk that would warrant listing," he said.

The measure would create a working group of representatives from a public interest organization, a health advocate, a scientist and various businesses. Only when the group proposes action would the state's health commissioner then be able to regulate chemicals considered to be at risk to the public.

Proponents of the bill, including environmental groups, have watched it shrink in the House. But they are now working to ensure that the scope of the proposed legislation expands over the course of time.

"Starting out with children's products - consistency with Washington - could be way to get it up and running, but limiting ourselves in that way in the long term is certainly limiting the health protections under the bill," said Lauren Hierl, a lobbyist with the group Vermont Conservation Voters.

'We shouldn't limit it to just children's products'

Under the bill, children's products are defined as any which is used by, or marketed for, children under 12 years of age. It would include toys, jewelry, cosmetics, products for sucking and teething and car seats. Winter equipment, second-hand products and electronics would be exempt.

Nick Carter, a representative of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, a group that considers toxic chemical exposure a "top health care risk," has recommended expanding the bill's scope over time, to include all consumer products.

"I think even for protecting children under 12, you're not actually doing them full service by limiting it to just children's products," he said. "I'm not sure we live in a world where children limit themselves to products that are designed only for them."

Exposure to specific chemicals has been linked to a number of health problems for all ages, including cancer, reproductive health and intellectual development.





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