By: Kelsey Tsipis
Parent and child safety advocates say that out of the over 82,000 chemicals on the market, and in use, only about 200 have been tested for health and safety by the FDA.
Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) held a press conference at the Children’s Garden near the NC General Assembly Wednesday morning to bring attention to the potential harm of toxic chemicals in everyday products. Dozens of children played in the gardens as parent advocates in white lab coats educated visitors about the potential harm in their children’s toys. The bill is an effort to get the state to address the issue.
“We don’t have adequate agency support. We don’t have a strong toxicology department,” said Rep. Harrison. “And there’s pressures to weaken our division of public health. So we have our work cut out for us because this current General Assembly seems less interested in public health protections and environmental protections.”
The Toxic Free Kids Act, introduced to the General Assembly by Rep. Harrison, is a bill that would ban the use of several toxic chemicals in toys, baby bottles, and other products intended for infants and children. The bill follows a similar federal bill in the US Senate called the Safe Chemicals Act which remains gridlocked.
“This bill addresses a serious problem which Congress has failed to resolve,” Rep. Harrison said. “There are tens of thousands of untested chemicals on the market today. We can’t allow chemical companies to treat our children’s health like some laboratory experiment.”
The bill would specifically ban three kinds of chemicals – bisphenol A, Tris, and phthlates – in addition to creating a “chemicals of concern” list that children’s toy manufacturers would have to disclose to the state if used. Advocates for the bill say infants and children are sensitive to toxic chemical exposure because their neurological and endocrine systems are not fully developed and their ability to detoxify and eliminate toxic residues is immature.
The press conference followed the Toxic Free Kids Olympics, an event sponsored by NC MomsRising, in which families played Olympic-inspired games highlighting toxic chemicals present in everyday children’s products. Children played games like “Toxic Tub Toy Toss” where they threw toys into a plastic tub labeled with a warning sign.
“We need comprehensive federal reform, but this state bill is a good step,” said Fawn Pattison of Toxic Free NC.
Four other states also have passed legislation regarding chemicals of concern in children’s products.
“Reception is not going to be terrific with this General Assembly,” said Rep. Harrison. “It’s a slow process. This is the third of fourth year we’ve been working on this. But we’re going to keep at it because it’s unacceptable that we’re exposing our children to these toxic chemicals.”