By PATRICK LYONS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan manufacturers and distributors of children’s products would be required to report the presence of toxic chemicals in their products if legislation introduced in the Senate passes.
The legislation by Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor would require manufacturers and distributors to report to the Department of Community Health if their products contain potentially harmful chemicals, and if so in what quantity.
The results would then be available to the public on the department’s website.
A recent rash of scares concerning chemicals in children’s toys, including lead-painted toys from Asia, prompted the legislation, Warren said.
Children’s products are the focus because children are most susceptible to these chemicals for such reasons as weight, hand-to-mouth behavior and level of development, said Alexis Blizman, legislative and policy director for the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health in Ann Arbor.
A 2008 national study by HealthyToys.org in 2008 found that 20 percent of children’s toys tested contained lead. The survey found mercury or arsenic in 3.4 percent of toys tested.
Lead can impair both mental and physical development in children. Mercury exposure can cause kidney damage, and arsenic is linked to lower IQ scores and respiratory problems, according to Blizman’s group.
The legislation would require the departments of Community Health and Environmental Quality to develop the list of the potentially dangerous chemicals for which manufacturers and distributors would be required to test.
The proposal would not require manufacturers to remove such chemicals or label products containing them.
Warren said, “This legislation would really get at the heart of making sure that our parents, aunts and uncles, caregivers, and grandparents know what chemicals are in the products they are buying and using around children.”
The legislation was sent to the Government Operations Committee, a move that supporters say could spell its demise.
“It looks like there won’t even be any type of public hearing,” Blizman said.
Co-sponsors of the bill include Democratic Sens. Steve Bieda of Warren; Vincent Gregory of Southfield; and Virgil Smith of Detroit.
The bill faces opposition from outside the Senate as well.
“We are opposed to this legislation, no doubt about it,” said Andy Such, director of environmental and regulatory policy at the Michigan Manufacturers Association.
Such said that the legislation would place a financial burden on manufacturers and distributors by requiring exhaustive tests of their products.
And it would add to the public’s “chemophobia,” when in reality such chemicals pose no threat to public health, he said.
Such called the legislation unnecessary, saying, “We think that the laws that exist right now are adequate to protect human health and environment, and we have been following those laws.”
Currently, federal law regulates chemicals that have been found to cause harm to public health and the environment.
But Warren said that that law doesn’t go far enough.
“The problem is that it has not been updated in almost 40 years,” Warren said. “In the last 40 years we have had an explosion in the new types of chemicals we use.”
Her proposal is based on a 2008 Maine law.
Similar legislation was sponsored by Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, last session but that bill failed to make it out of the committee.
© 2012, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By PATRICK LYONS