Modernizing the Toxic Free Kids Act

Thousands of chemicals lurk in products our kids use every day, and children are far more vulnerable to toxics than adults. With that in mind, in 2015, OEC led the advocacy work to pass the Toxic Free Kids Act (TFKA), requiring manufacturers of children’s products to disclose — and eventually phase out — toxic chemicals. 

We’ve made great progress since then, but our kids need us to do more. This legislative session, OEC is championing HB 2495, a.k.a the 2021 Toxic Free Kids Act, to build on the success of this program and strengthen protections to keep hazardous substances out of children’s bodies, and also out of our landfills.  

Along with a diverse coalition of medical professionals, community-based organizations and environmental health advocates, OEC’s Environmental Health Program Director, Jamie Pang, testified in the House Energy & Environment Committee on February 22 on the policy updates and changes that HB 2495 would bring to the existing Toxic Free Kids program. 

The original TFKA legislation was standard-setting for its time, and a landmark achievement of OEC’s Environmental Health Program. OEC has been engaged throughout the rulemaking process these last several years to develop a strong foundation for the Toxic Free Kids Program, and the chemical phaseouts required by the law are set to be implemented in January of 2022.

Environmental Health Program Director, Jamie Pang South, testifies in support of HB 2495

However, since the Toxic Free Kids Act Program was enacted 6 years ago, more than 4,000 reports have been filed disclosing harmful substances like arsenic, lead, and formaldehyde in children’s products. The health impacts from exposure to these chemicals in products are significant, and include skin irritation, allergies, respiratory illness, headaches, endocrine disruption, reproductive disruption, and in the worst cases, cancer. The Oregon Health Authority needs more tools to ensure this program can effectively manage the wide range of chemicals of concern for children’s health. 

HB 2495 provides these tools: 

  • Modernizes OHA’s ability to regulate classes of chemicals instead of regulating chemicals one-by-one. This will prevent harmful chemicals from being phased out, only to be replaced with closely related and equally harmful materials.
  • Removes limits on designating high priority chemicals of concern for children’s health. Currently, OHA is limited to adding five chemicals for regulation every three years. According to the EPA, more than 1,500 new chemicals are introduced into commerce each year.
  • Limits exemptions granted to manufacturers to three years, rather than in perpetuity. New products are developed every year, and materials updates can and should be made when safer alternatives are available.
  • Makes it easier for parents to avoid products containing toxics by adding brand name and model to reporting requirements.
  • Streamlines manufacturer reporting requirements and reduce program costs by aligning definitions and data management systems with Washington and other states.

The Toxic Free Kids Act approach has been and continues to be business-friendly, environmentally-friendly, and equitable for all consumers. It applies to all major manufacturers and gives them adequate time to phase out toxic chemicals. Specifically, HB 2495 makes the reporting requirements more consumer-friendly by requiring brand name and product model.

“I’m not a scientist or public health professional, but I felt like I was my family’s own personal, private EPA. It was hard, confusing, and frustrating work. I learned for example that doll hair contains formaldehyde, which can cause skin irritations, cancer, and respiratory illness.” – Alicia Cohen, Portland resident and TFKA supporter

And the program levels the playing field for parents. Because the bill applies to all major manufacturers and distributors who want to do business in Oregon, it ensures that all families have access to safer products — not just those who can afford to shop in specialty stores. The only way to protect kids and our surrounding environment from harmful chemicals is by making sure that they don’t make it into our products to begin with.

So then, what’s next? The House Energy & Environment Committee needs to vote bills out of committee by mid-April. OEC and our coalition partners will continue to push for strong protections for our children as the bill is negotiated throughout session, and we’ll need your help to tell lawmakers this should be a top issue in 2021. 

Update your information in our Action Alert Network to be notified when the time is right to call your legislators and tell them to protect kids from harmful chemicals and VOTE YES on HB 2495.

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