“Toxic Toys” law finalized in state budget

Photo courtesy of Clean and Healthy New York
Bobbi Wilding of Clean and Healthy New York shows a child’s chair that is made with flame retardant chemicals that are toxic for children. A law finalized in the new budget will require manufacturers to disclose such chemicals in children’s products and toys and give the state the power to restrict the sale of products with the most harmful chemicals.

New York State’s Child Safe Products Act, also known as the “toxic toys bill,” was finalized as part of the the Enacted Fiscal Year 2021 budget and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

The law will require manufacturers to disclose chemicals of concern in children’s products and gives the state the power to restrict the most toxic chemicals. Revisions to the law enacted in the budget include the creation of a Children’s Product Safety Council to advise and update the Department of Environmental Conservation on chemical restrictions. 

While the effects of dangerous chemicals, that have been linked to cancer, asthma, infertility and other health problems, are not limited to children, they do pose a considerable threat in altering childhood development. 

The law requires toy manufacturers to disclose harmful chemicals present in toys and other children’s products like car seats, school supplies, furniture and baby care products. The legislation sets a framework for phasing out more harmful chemicals like benzene, which is known to cause respiratory problems, and asbestos, a toxic flame retardant. 

“We appreciate the severity of the crisis facing New York state,” said Kathleen Curtis, executive director of Clean and Healthy New York and co-leader of the JustGreen Partnership. “For the Legislature to prioritize the Child Safe Products Act at this time speaks to the tremendous commitment to children’s environmental health from leadership and advocates across the state. 

The fight for open information regarding chemicals in children’s products came around 2007 when the media exposed the dangerously high levels of lead present in children’s toys. What came after was an extensive recall in toys containing high levels of toxic chemicals. 

The right-to-know law provides parents with the information necessary to decide which children’s products are safe. It can also influence manufacturing practice by forcing companies to consider altering their production processes to methods that don’t pose high risks to vulnerable customers. 

“Passage of the Child Safe Products Act means a safer environment for children, parents, and caregivers,” Katie Huffling, executive director of Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, said. “With so much at stake in this moment, as nurses we thank Governor Cuomo and legislative leadership for prioritizing New Yorkers’ health.”

New York state is the most populous state to take such action, joining Washington, Oregon, Vermont and Maine. The Child Safe Products Act first passed 53-9 in the Senate and 100-23 in the Assembly on April 30, 2019 as part of a first-ever bicameral Earth Day package.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Steve Englebright.

The Child Safe Products Act is a major step forward in protecting the health of all children in New York state,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.“If the current health crisis teaches us anything, it is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”