The Fight to Protect Children from Toxic Chemicals – SB 772 (Leno) and SB 797 (Pavley)

SB 797 (Pavley) and SB 772 (Leno) ‘ two landmark bills that would reduce children’s exposure to toxic chemicals ‘ are approaching critical Assembly votes after surviving tough battles and close calls in the Senate and in Assembly Committees due to aggressive, deceptive, and extremely well funded chemical industry opposition campaigns.

SB 797 ‘ Protecting Children from Toxic Baby Products

Growing evidence suggests that bisphenol A (BPA), a component found in plastic containers, shouldn’t be allowed in the products that contain food or beverages. This is especially true where children are concerned because of the potential for greater health impacts on their developing bodies. Research that shows we need to restrict the use of BPA is mounting each year.  

In late 2008 the National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program declared its concern about the effects of low levels of BPAs on brain development, behavior, and the male reproductive systems of infants and children. Also late last year, the FDA’s Advisory Science Board found that the FDA’s prior safety assessment for BPA was seriously flawed. And a recently released study by researchers at the University of Cincinnati says that exposure to bisphenol A may increase heart disease in women.

SB 797 (Pavley) would ban BPA from baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula cans sold or made in California – specifically those designed for children three years or younger.

Some industry representatives claim there are no alternatives for can linings, but this is simply not true.  More and more retailers have taken positive action to protect public health – Nalgene, Wal-Mart, and Toys ‘R Us have already acted to remove BPA from their products and/or shelves, showing that alternatives for many uses are readily available and cost competitive. Eden Foods even notes on its website that it already uses non-BPA coatings in cans of organic beans and that they are only marginally more expensive than linings with BPA.  

California should lead the way when it comes to protecting children from toxic chemicals in consumer products. One small step towards doing this would be to stop gambling with our children’s health and reduce their exposure to BPA.

SB 772 – Protecting Children from Toxic Furniture

For decades, California has had a unique and misguided fire safety regulation that has loaded furniture sold in our state with highly toxic fire-retardant chemicals.

Fire retardant chemicals migrate from furniture into the dust in the air in our homes and from there into our bodies. Babies ingest the chemicals when they chew or suck on their bassinets and other furniture.  These toxic brominated and chlorinated chemicals are related to TRIS, a fire retardant once used in children’s pajamas banned by federal authorities in 1977 as a carcinogen. These fire retardants are associated with cancer, birth defects, thyroid disruption, hearing deficits, learning disorders and mental retardation.

Toxic Flame Retardants Pose a Threat to Human Health

Last year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued statements strongly discouraging the use of fire retardant in home furniture, including baby products. The federal agency’s scientists cited numerous studies linking fire retardant exposure to a plethora of health concerns.

Due to our state’s unique regulation, Californians have the highest body burdens in the world of pentaBDE, a potent endocrine disrupting toxic chemical. Babies are born with these chemicals in their bodies and get a further dose from their mother’s milk and exposure to baby products.

A study published last year in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that the dust in California homes had 4 to 10 times higher levels of toxic flame retardants than other states, and 200 times higher levels compared to homes in the European Union.

These chemicals can smolder, releasing toxic dioxin and furan, which fire fighters breathe when they enter a burning building. In November 2006, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published an analysis of 32 studies that found that fire fighters have significantly elevated rates of four types of cancer: multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate, and testicular cancer, likely resulting from chemical exposures.

No evidence of link between igniting children furnishings and fire death

Senate Bill 772 (Leno) would exempt nursing pillows, bassinets, strollers and infant carriers from the state’s fire retardancy requirement (TB 117).  Senator Leno limited the exemption to these products based on a Consumer Product Safety Commission review of fire incident reports from around the nation filed from 2000 to 2007 that found no fire fatalities linked to the ignition of one of the four product lines.

California’s toxic fire retardant standard has been in place since the early 1980’s but there is no evidence that these toxic chemicals actually reduce fire deaths. According the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire deaths declined by 38% in California from 1980 to 1999; but the decline was similar or even greater in states that don’t have standards leading to the use of these toxic chemicals.

Considering that most victims of fires die from smoke inhalation and not the actual flames, alternative fire-fighting measures including smoke alarm ordinances and mandating fire safe cigarettes that extinguish instead of smoldering when a smoker stops puffing away have proven more effective.

SB 772 Strikes the Right Balance

California doesn’t need to make the false choice between toxic chemical exposure and fire safety ‘ that’s why firefighters in every state where bills restricting toxic fire retardants have been introduced have gone on record in support of them. The California Professional Firefighters has joined Friends of the Earth, Environmental Working Group, CFC and many health and environmental groups in supporting SB 772.

SB 772 represents a long overdue clean-up of a short-sighted standard that has proven ineffective in achieving its safety goal – striking the proper balance between protecting children from harmful toxic exposures and any limited legitimate use of fire retardants.

In 2007 and 2008, the bromine and chlorine chemical industry spent nine million dollars to defeat then - Assemblyman Leno’s AB 706, which would have banned toxic fire retardants from home furnishings sold in the state. SB 772 takes a different approach. It allows consumers to choose between purchasing toxic or non-toxic baby products. Today, only toxic baby products are sold in our state.

The chemicals manufacturers, operating under the industry-funded front group ‘Citizens for Fire Safety’ are back, spending upwards of $200,000 per quarter on lobbying firms in a desperate bid to ensure that toxic exposures continues unabated.   

Chemical industry profits shouldn’t outweigh the health and safety of California children. Please take action and ‘Tell Your Representatives to Protect Children from Toxic Chemicals