State and Environmental Groups Work to Protect New Yorkers from Toxic Chemicals

Clean and Healthy New York, which NYLCV works closely with as part of the JustGreen Partnership, this month laid out a road map for identifying and eliminating toxins from everyday consumer products ranging from toothpaste to floor polish as part of a fundamental shift in the way we manufacture these products.

The coalition released the road map just a month after Governor Cuomo proposed new legislation to protect New Yorkers from potential exposure to toxic chemicals as part of his Executive Budget.

The Roadmap and the new legislation are part of an ongoing effort by the State and environmental groups to enact laws that implement or go beyond federal laws to address environmental and public health concerns. State-level consumer protections are more important than ever as the Trump administration continues to try to roll back environmental protections.

Governor Cuomo’s two-fold proposal, theConsumer Right to Know Act,” first commissions the NYS Departments of Environmental Conservation, State, and Health to establish on-package labeling requirements for designated products to warn consumers of toxic or hazardous chemicals.

While it is unclear which exact products must adopt these labels, Governor Cuomo’s proposal affirmed that all products made with carcinogens, ranging from toothpaste to floor polish, are included in this category of designated products. The three departments will create new regulations by developing a list of over 1,000 carcinogens and other chemicals that will help specify which consumer products should have on-packaging labels. As of now, there is no deadline for the development of these regulations.

The second part of the Consumer Right to Know Act expands an existing law, the Household Cleaning Product Information Disclosure Program. The current law requires manufacturers to disclose specific product information and ingredients on a publicly accessible database by definitive due dates in the next two years. Governor Cuomo’s new proposal expands the disclosure of household cleaning products to include all cleaning products sold to individuals and cleaning professionals as well as personal care products such as baby powder

NYCLV and its dedicated members played a vital role in advocating for these stringent chemical regulations by raising awareness of the program, sending letters to DEC, and participating in negotiations.

The Clean and Healthy New York Roadmap goes beyond labels. It lays out a transition to sustainable practices such as using benign materials and using reusable, recyclable or repairable material in manufacturing. The roadmap’s recommendations include:

    1. Transparency: showing buyers through the supply chain what is in the products they’re buying so they can purchase the safest product.
    2. Action on harmful chemicals: When credible information indicates that chemicals are hazardous, government and businesses should act to limit their presence.
    3. Innovation of inherently safer options: Investment in green chemistry and engineering, identifying solutions built on inherently benign, reusable, repairable, recyclable materials.
    4. Integration of chemical considerations into broader definitions of sustainability: The petrochemical industry drives production of gases disrupting our climate, plastic pollution crowding the oceans, and toxic chemicals spreading from the equator to the poles. All rely on the same feedstock. We can only fully transition from a linear supply chain to a circular one when we detoxify the materials within it.

These recommendations represent a fundamental shift to treating all materials as future inputs, not simply as ultimate wastes, in an effort to preserve our irreplaceable resources.

NYLCV will continue to work with partners like Clean and Healthy New York to advocate for policies that improve environmental and public health and educate consumers about potentially hazardous chemicals in their shopping carts.

By Colleen Burns and Kate Rice