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Katy Farber's picture

If you follow environmental health news, you likely know that many products on store shelves contain harmful ingredients linked to asthma, developmental disorders, infertility, cancer and other harmful health effects. Products on store shelves do not have to be proven safe before they are sold.  While our federal government does nothing on this issue (and protects companies instead of public health) states are left to create legislation to protect their citizens. 

Vermont has done just that!

As readers know, I've been working to protect families from harmful chemicals in consumer products for years. This work spans from lead in consumer protects, to an invasive series of body burden tests for a study of Vermonters, to writing and advocating passionately about the topic for Moms Clean Air ForceMomsRising, and at Non-Toxic Kids.

This spring, I've been working with the Vermont Public Interest Group and Seventh Generation to pass legislation in Vermont that would lead the nation in protecting citizens from toxic chemicals.  This bill started out very ambitious-- but fully protective of all Vermonters.  Version of the bill went between the House and Senate. Lobbyists from the Associated Industries of Vermont, American Petroleum Institute and even the Toy Industry Association descended on our little state to fight this bill. Now that has to tell you where their priorities are. Not with the health of kids, that is for sure. 

Thankfully, Vermont parents and activists, as well as lawmakers unmoved by lobbyist influence ruled the day. While the version of the bill that passed is geared only to protect kids under 12, the groundwork for expanding this program to protect all Vermont citizens from harmful chemicals is finally here. The bill (to be signed soon by Governor Shumlin) will:

  • Establish a list of dangerous toxins still used in products (beginning with the list of chemicals of high concern to children currently in use in Washington State),
  • Require businesses that sell children’s products containing one or more of those chemicals to report to the state and pay a small fee, and
  • Give experts at the Vermont Department of Health the authority to regulate the toxins on the list that are used in children’s products.

This bill almost ran out of time! Legislators fit this in during one of the last days of the session.  Supporters of the bill called their senators. In our small state these calls really matter. They listened-- and now we are one step closer to making our state healthy for kids. If you need more evidence that your voice matters, this is it! One of Vermont's senior senators called me just after the vote was placed, telling me it passed.  This was simply amazing. 

Vermont joins Maine and Washington in establishing systems to protect their citizens from harmful chemicals in consumer products. How about your state? Connecticut came close this year too.

Ask your leaders to lead the way in protecting kids-- and all citizens-- from the effects of toxic chemicals that harm public health.


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