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Informing parents about toxic chemicals in toys

Ada Salmi-Bydalek, 2, watches from the gallery after her mother, Meredith, testified before the House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee March 25 in support of a bill sponsored by Rep. Ryan Winkler, foreground, that would prohibit sales of children’s products that contain harmful chemicals. Photo by Andrew VonBank

As Meredith Salmi-Bydalek’s toddler scrambles around her St. Louis Park home, she’s concerned about her youngster’s exposure to chemicals from toys and other products. She told the House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee on Tuesday that she doesn’t have the informational resources to stay up to date on all potentially harmful chemicals. She said she was alarmed to realize her daughter’s bubble bath contains formaldehyde and her chair is made with a toxic flame retardant.

“What shocked me is that really, no one is checking,” Salmi-Bydalek said.

Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) sponsors HF605, known as the Toxic Free Kids Act. The bill, which was amended by the committee, would require manufacturers to notify the Pollution Control Agency of products that contain one of nine so-called priority chemicals. Priority chemicals, such as cadmium and lead, are deemed by the Department of Health to be of “high concern.” After the initial report, the bill would require subsequent reports by the manufacturers.

The bill was amended into HF3158, which has become the supplemental budget bill for the environment, natural resources and agriculture committee.

House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee

Business groups have raised concerns about the bill. Andy Hackman, vice president for government affairs of the Toy Industry Association, told the committee he’s concerned about laws varying from state to state. He noted, for example, Winkler’s bill would be different than reporting requirements in the state of Washington.

“If the state is looking just to have this data, to be quite frank, it exists in Washington state’s Department of Ecology website. You don’t necessarily have to pass a new law to have that information,” Hackman said.

Hackman also said the toy industry is regulated by six different federal standards and statutes. His organization has been working on updates to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

Winkler, however, said that the state needs to create a way to make information about chemicals easily available.

“The idea here is to actually give meaningful information on chemicals that the Department of Health determines may have an impact on children’s health and make that information available to consumers in a simple, straightforward manner. And those are two things this bill does that we would not have without it,” Winkler said.

Winkler noted the bill, as amended, is significantly different from previous iterations by requiring notification rather than phasing out the nine priority chemicals.

A companion, SF466, sponsored by Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center), awaits action in the Senate Commerce Committee.

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