Are the folks in Maine more interested in children’s safety than, let’s say, California or Texas? On June 3, 2011, the Maine State Legislature finalized amendments to its Toxic Chemicals in Children’s Products Act of 2008, known (in Maine, that is) as the Kid Safe Products Act. We will recall that there was a flurry of legislation in 2008 for children’s products, most notably the national Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), legislation not without its own defects and need for amendments, due, in part, to the haste in drafting it.
Why did Maine need to amend this relatively new legislation? The reformed law (LD 1129) is intended to reduce unnecessary and costly regulations that may have negatively impacted small businesses in Maine. Included among the regulations was a requirement that toy companies doing business in Maine had to test and document that their products do not contain any of the more than 1,750 “priority chemicals” named by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). That’s a whole lotta testing.
While the Toy Industry Association, Inc. (TIA) continues to seek a waiver for reporting Bisphenol A (BPA) in toys, the DEP has merely granted an extension for reporting of BPA and other priority chemicals in toys and other products until October 3, 2011. BPA is found in hard plastics, like water bottles. The extension is to allow more time for companies to comply with the submission requirements.
According to the TIA press release, other modifications to the bill include:
- The exemption of inaccessible product components;
- The provision for a de minimis level of chemicals in products;
- A clarification that the focus of the law is on “intentionally-added” ingredients; and
- The requirement that credible science be used in the DEP’s decisions.
Those modifications say a lot, don’t they? Like…did you have any scientific basis in the first place for legislating certain requirements? Or, when you legislated these requirements, did you consider that a child will not be exposed to certain chemicals if they are in inaccessible components?
Individual states persist in setting their own standards when it would appear so much more can be achieved by working cooperatively with the federal government to determine product safety requirements for children’s products. It becomes virtually impossible for manufacturers to comply with individual state requirements. It’s impractical on so many levels, not the least of which is the size of the legal bill for any company to determine each state’s requirements and maintain compliance with them over time. Just consider how much time, effort and expense most likely went into reforming the Kid Safe Products Act. This, of course, adds to the overall expense of the products we buy.
For the most part, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is in the best position to determine safety requirements for children’s products. To the greatest extent, manufacturers need a single source for product safety requirements. This should promote healthy businesses and facilitate trade without compromising safety. State legislators reacting in haste can have a negative impact on businesses while not necessarily positively impacting the quality or safety of toys and other children’s products.
Is BPA is good or safe enough to warrant a total waiver of requirements for reporting in toys, as the TIA proposes? Online research provides lay people with conflicting information. Yet, if the Maine DEP has enough scientific evidence to substantiate legislation, it should share the research with the CPSC and work toward a federal solution, so that all kids in the US and, ultimately, around the world have the benefit of protection…not just the kids in Maine.