May 28, 2014

Woohoo! Vermont Legislature Passes Bill to Regulate Chemicals in Children's Products

PAINT.ORG: After a heated battle in the Statehouse, on May 9, the Vermont State Legislature narrowly passed S. 239, a bill to regulate chemicals found in children’s consumer products. The bill was passed with a vote by the Senate of 26–3 and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Before the bill received significant national attention, it made little progress in the beginning of the session, then quickly and unexpectedly gained momentum and passed in the Senate in March. The version of the bill that passed the Senate alarmed many industries, including ACA, doing business in Vermont because of its far-reaching, burdensome proposals that many considered to go much further than any other state’s toxic chemicals requirements. Many businesses were concerned that the legislation had the potential to have a large impact on the consumer products market, place financial and regulatory burdens on manufacturers, and give the Department of Health broad discretion to decide which chemicals go on the list of “chemicals of high concern.”

The initial bill proposed to require the Vermont Department of Health to identify and publish a list of priority chemicals of “high concern for human health or the environment.” It required a manufacturer of a consumer product containing a chemical of high concern in certain quantities to disclose to the Commissioner of Health the use of this chemical in the consumer product and pay a fee of up to $2,000 per disclosure. The bill allowedthe Commissioner of Health to regulate the sale or distribution of a consumer product containing a priority chemical.

However, when the bill moved to the House of Representatives, the bill was substantially narrowed due to industry advocacy efforts, so that it requiredmanufacturers to report to the state their use of any of the listed chemicals in products sold to children, and to pay a $200 fee, rather than a $2,000 fee, every 2 years for each listed chemical that they used. The bill expanded the list of exemptions, and directed the Department of Health to create a list of chemicals of high concern to children. Notably, the House narrowed the scope of the bill to focus on consumer products marketed for use by, marketed to, sold to, offered for sale to, or distributed to children (such as toys, children’s jewelry, and children’s clothing) rather than all consumer products. This narrowed version passed the House, and the battle continued in Conference Committee.