A Third New York County Passes a Toxic-Free Toy Bill
by Amanda Starbuck, 6/5/2015
Suffolk County became the third county in New York State to pass a bill limiting toxic substances in children’s toys. The Toxic Free Toy Act passed unanimously on Tuesday and now goes to County Executive Steve Bellone for approval.
The bill sets limits on six heavy metals linked to serious health and developmental issues:
- Antimony, arsenic, cadmium, and cobalt are known or suspected to cause cancer. Additionally, exposure to these chemicals can cause various health effects, from lung irritation to kidney damage.
- Mercury and lead can irreversibly damage children’s neurological development and lead to lower IQ levels.
Protecting children from heavy metals is crucial, as the toxic substances can interfere with their development.
Toddlers and babies put everything they come in contact with in their mouths, increasing the chance that they will be exposed to chemicals in their toys.
The bill would require Suffolk County to fund inspections of toys at 40 local stores per year. Retailers will be informed when products exceed set levels and may face fines of up to $1,000 if they fail to remove the products from their shelves.
Lawmakers introduced the bill following a report released last fall that found heavy metals in children’s products sold in Albany County. Last January, Albany County enacted its own toxic-free toy bill, and Westchester County did the same in May; both require testing and removal of children’s products that contain similar toxic substances.
Twin bills in the New York State Assembly and Senate would regulate toxic substances in children’s products sold across the state. New York State tried to pass a similar bill last year but it failed to make it to the Senate floor, despite passing the Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Is this an appropriate role for county government? Where’s the federal government?
Counties have stepped in to regulate toxic toys because the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the federal law that is supposed to regulate the 84,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S., is failing. In the nearly 40 years since TSCA was adopted, the EPA has tested only about 250 chemicals for their safety and has placed restrictions on only nine. Consumers – including children – are exposed to thousands of untested chemicals in everyday products.
Congress is finally moving to fix this poorly written and unenforceable legislation. But the current bills being considered are half measures and would override state and local government authority to enact better safety standards. Real toxic chemical reform on the federal level would strengthen EPA’s ability to prohibit the use of dangerous chemicals and allow state and local governments to pass laws that exceed federal minimums if their residents want them.
Until national legislation that truly protects kids from toxic toys is passed, parents will want to defend their right to use local authority to keep their children safe.