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Governor Signs Groundbreaking Consumer Product Safety Bills

Will give state authority to protect consumers from toxic chemicals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:September 29, 2008
Contact: Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246 cell, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

SACRAMENTO – California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed into law two bills that will protect state residents from hazardous chemicals in consumer goods. These new consumer product safety bills will establish a process to regulate chemicals linked to breast cancer and other adverse health effects such as birth defects and developmental delays.

Environmental and public health advocates see passage of these bills as having the potential to transform the way California deals with toxic chemicals in consumer products. Until now, hazardous and potentially hazardous chemicals have been subjected to little regulatory oversight. The result is that untested and toxic chemicals are used in everyday consumer products such as cosmetics, household cleaners, toys and food containers.

The bills, AB 1879, authored by Assemblymember Mike Feuer and SB 509, authored by Senator Joe Simitian give the state authority to monitor the use of chemicals in everyday products and create a public online database of information on these chemicals. The legislation will also design a process to evaluate and, if necessary, regulate chemicals of concern in consumer products.

The governor’s action is a direct response to growing concerns raised by scientists and public health advocates about unsafe and untested chemicals in consumer products. “These legislative measures are the beginning of a much-needed overhaul of the state’s broken chemicals management system,” said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., president of the Breast Cancer Fund. “With the signing of these bills, our state is taking a historic step toward reducing Californians’ exposure to toxic chemicals.”

The Breast Cancer Fund, along with several other environmental and public health groups, was at the forefront of securing passage of the legislation. They point to an increasing body of scientific evidence linking toxic chemicals to devastating diseases like breast cancer. “Our laws need to catch up with the science,” said Rizzo. “We’re encouraged that California has recognized this, and will now lead the rest of the country in taking decisive precautionary action based on sound science.”

Both bills passed the legislature with broad bi-partisan support—a sign that California lawmakers are ready to move from the current piecemeal one-chemical-at-a-time approach to chemicals management toward comprehensive chemical policy reform.

“This legislation shows that California is ready to take a leading role in protecting consumers from harmful chemicals,” said Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund. But Salter also cautioned that the bills are just a first step on a long road to guaranteeing the safety of consumer goods. “While we are excited about the signing of these bills, we know that they represent a promise that has yet to be realized,” Salter said. “We must ensure that the legislation is implemented in a way that truly protects public health.”

Advocates say they are committed to working with the Governor over the coming months to implement the legislation. But they also urge the Governor to release his months-delayed Green Chemistry Initiative recommendations, which are expected to include a more comprehensive plan for chemical policy reform and the search for safer, less toxic chemicals.

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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.