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Calif. Lawmakers Pass Groundbreaking Consumer Products Bills

Will give state authority to protect consumers from toxic chemicals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:September 2, 2008
Contact: Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246 cell, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

SACRAMENTO – On Sunday, the California legislature approved two bills that will protect residents of the state from hazardous chemicals in consumer goods. AB 1879, authored by Assemblymember Mike Feuer, gives the state authority to monitor the use of chemicals in everyday products, while Senator Joe Simitian’s SB 509 creates a public online database of information on these chemicals. The legislation will also design an alternatives analysis process to evaluate and, if necessary, regulate chemicals of concern in consumer products.

Environmental health advocates are heralding this legislation as a major milestone in the movement toward comprehensive chemical policy reform. The bills’ passage marks the first ever acknowledgement by lawmakers that a system of assessing the hazards of chemicals should exist.

This legislative action is a direct response to a growing movement of parents, scientists and advocates who are raising concerns about unsafe chemicals in consumer products and demanding change. “This is the beginning of a much-needed overhaul of chemicals management for the state of California,” said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., president of the Breast Cancer Fund. “This legislation has the ability to transform the way we think about chemicals in our products. Instead of wondering and debating about how much or what dose of a toxic chemical is safe, the new question will be: What are the safer alternatives that achieve the same end?”

The Breast Cancer Fund was in the forefront of efforts to secure passage of this legislation, which establishes a process to regulate chemicals linked to breast cancer, as well as other health harms such as birth defects and developmental delays. These chemicals have been subject to little regulatory oversight in the past and are often found in everyday consumer products such as cosmetics, household cleaners, toys and food containers. “With this legislation, California is taking an historic step toward eliminating the environmental causes of breast cancer and other health problems,” said Rizzo. “The rise in widespread use of synthetic chemicals correlates with a rise in the rates of breast cancer and other diseases related to hormone disruption. An increasing body of evidence links toxic chemicals to these devastating diseases, and we are encouraged to see that legislators are making this connection and working to put an end to it. We applaud Assemblymember Feuer and Senator Simitian for their important leadership on this issue. ”

With the passage of AB 1879 and SB 509, the state will establish a list of chemicals of concern and prioritize those chemicals for regulation in products based on volume, potential for exposure and impact on sensitive subpopulations such as infants and children. “This package of bills shows that California is not afraid to stand up and take a leading role in protecting us from harmful substances,” said Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund. “It also sets forth many regulatory processes that will require public input to be implemented successfully. As health advocates, we plan to be present throughout these processes to help create a straightforward system that protects public health. ”

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The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working to identify and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer. www.breastcancerfund.org.