Oregon Health Authority Wrestles With Commitment to Transparency

At the most recent meeting of the Toxic Free Kids Act Rules Advisory Committee the chemical industry publicly admitted that many chemicals in kids’ products may lack key data on their safety. This sort of disregard for product safety and transparency is sadly a routine page out of the chemical industry’s playbook

The issue of transparency was another hot topic during the most recent rules meeting. While it’s a common move for industry associations and manufacturers to refuse to provide transparency on chemical ingredients and safety assessments, it’s less common to see it from state agencies. 

The heart of the matter under consideration by OHA relates to how much transparency the agency will provide around exceptions to the law that it may grant manufacturers. Under the law, OHA may grant a “waiver” to the requirement that a manufacturer replaces a toxic chemical in a product with a safer alternative. Whether or not the agency grants a waiver to the law is based on the results of an assessment performed by the manufacturer or trade association.

Since OHA may allow a manufacturer to continue using a toxic chemical in a kid’s product based on the results of these assessments, it’s critical that the agency be transparent about the process and grant exceptions to Oregon’s law only if there is a strong scientific basis. 

However, at this point OHA has not committed to providing the transparency for the waiver process necessary to ensure accountability and maintain public trust. Oregon Environmental Council and our partners are urging the agency to make this process accessible to the public by providing some basic information about these assessments and how the agency evaluates them. 

Providing this transparency will provide a variety of benefits and can be done in a way that protects legitimate business concerns about protecting confidential information. Stay tuned for more updates as the rulemaking process draws to a close in the coming months.

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