Chemicals of Concern: ECOS Takes Aim

By Mark D. Anderson, Esq., Senior Vice President

State policymakers are championing an unprecedented number of proposals restricting, banning and otherwise stigmatizing alleged hazards and toxins in commercial, consumer and children’s products and toys, including bisphenol-A and phthalates in plastic packaging, benzene, glycol ethers and phosphates in cleaning products, 1,4 dioxane in foaming agents and soaps and, of course, the usual suspect heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. Many of these specific proposals reflect a growing skepticism by states about the federal government’s ability to regulate consumer products.

The National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments –both influential state officials groups– have weighed in on the debate about so-called unregulated toxins, the role of the Consumer Products Safety Commission in regulating certain substances in consumer products and strengthening the Toxic Substances Control Act. Now the regulatory agencies are taking aim. Environmental Council of the States’ (ECOS) – the forum for state environmental commissioners and directors – raised the subject last week at its Cross-Media Committee meeting in Montana, and the fact that many of them have been mandated by state legislation to develop these lists of chemicals of concern.

In a budget-constrained environment, developing these lists can be time-consuming and costly. Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner and ECOS Chair of the Cross-Media Committee, David Littell, offered ECOS up as a clearinghouse for states with regard to these lists. His point was to save state resources by avoiding duplication of efforts from state to state.

While the concept of a model or uniform list was not discussed, it was clear that the states represented in the room were keen on the idea of being able to borrow the analysis and approach to restricting these chemicals.

So the many industries that could be impacted by the lists should be aware that this is not only being worked on by many state environmental agencies; but that state agencies are sharing information through ECOS. Of course, this only intensifies the impact of a bad example…or a good one for that matter. So if you think your organization could be impacted by these lists of chemicals of concern, it may be time to start paying attention to ECOS and the state environmental agencies.

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