Lack of EPA Evaluation of Harmful Chemicals Calls for NY State Action

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently been involved in decisions involving threats to public health and the environment. The federal agency has once again been gaining public attention for recent regulations (or lack thereof) associated with potentially dangerous chemicals found in everyday products.  

Following an Obama-era law passed by Congress, the EPA was required to evaluate the health risk of hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals found in products including personal care, cleaning, and beauty products. According to documents that were released recently, the EPA decided to exclude an evaluation of exposure caused by the chemicals’ presence in the air, the ground or water and only evaluate direct contact with a chemical. This means that the improper disposal of chemicals was not a factor in deciding whether to restrict or ban them.

Improperly disposing chemicals can lead to water contamination and puts Americans’ health at risk.  The flawed and incomplete analysis by the EPA on toxic and even carcinogenic chemicals has led to a severe lack of regulations on the federal level. Such an absence of restrictions has presented a need for new, strict policy on the evaluation of hazardous chemicals that pose threats to public and environmental health.

Policymakers in New York have worked to implement more strict standards.  The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently announced the implementation of a disclosure program for manufacturers of household cleaning products.  NYLCV and its dedicated members played a vital role in filling the need for stringent chemical regulations by raising awareness of the program, activating its members to send letters to the DEC, and by participating in the final round of negotiations.  The ingredients that will be disclosed include a number of the same chemicals under-evaluated by the EPA, including the known carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.  Furthermore, the state program will ensure the release of study results by manufacturers that demonstrate any environmental or health effects of their cleaning products or ingredients.

These strict standards in New York provide a model for other state and federal regulations on disclosure of chemicals in cleaning products and their potential effects.

However, establishing new state legislation to compensate for federal inaction cannot stop here.  There is still work to be done to protect our environment and health. Disclosure programs for chemicals in personal care, beauty, and children’s’ products have still not passed through the state legislature, including the Toxic Show and Tell bill (S. 6034-A/A. 7950-A). The passage of this bill along with other pieces of legislation to monitor hazardous chemicals is urgent to ensure a clean and healthy New York.