“Toxics” Bills Proliferate

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, March 18, 2005 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

This year legislators have inundated us with more environmental bills than ever before and, unfortunately, there is something for everyone.

In order to provide more fuel for legislative fire in future years, Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) has introduced SB 490 – the Netherlands Toxic Substance List. His bill commissions the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to work with the Netherlands to put together a reconciliation of their list of substances posing hazards to public health minus California’s Proposition 65 chemicals and submit the report to the legislature by this time next year.

Assemblymember Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) has brought back her bill calling for a phthalate ban, this time with a little twist. AB 319 would prohibit the manufacture, sale or distribution of any product or toy that is intended to be used by children under the age of 3 if that product contains either Bisphenol-A (BPA) or certain chemicals known as phthalates. AB 319 fails to consider the wealth of scientific based research that demonstrates the safety of these chemicals. In fact BPA has been extensively studied and determined to be safe across the globe. BPA is also essential to thousands of consumer products, including many that were developed to enhance safety and protect children from harm. Phthalates (chemicals that are used in a variety of plastic products such as blood bags, IV tubing, and toys) have also undergone extensive testing. Recent government data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that human exposure levels are far below minimum safety levels set by regulatory agencies. Rigorous and credible scientific information does not support the notion that these chemicals should be prohibited from use.

Another bill, AB 1354 (Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino) mandates adoption of a six part per billion (ppb) maximum contaminant level for perchlorate by the Department of Health Services. The notion of legislating drinking water standards disregards the deliberate, science-based regulatory process established by the Legislature in the California Safe Drinking Water Act and by Congress in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. This process exists to ensure that drinking water standards are set at a level necessary to protect public health, without imposing unnecessary costs on ratepayers or the economy. AB 1354 would establish a precedent for all other emerging chemicals and those with existing standards scheduled for review. Health-based regulatory levels should be driven by science, not by political considerations.

Assemblymember Baca also has another perchlorate bill, AB 342, that declares the Legislature’s intent to impose fees on products containing perchlorate and use the revenue to fund treatment of perchlorate-contaminated drinking water wells. This concept is problematic in the context of perchlorate because the fund would rely on a fairly narrow range of products, some of which are not manufactured in California. The revenue potential is modest at best, even assuming the state can capture fees from out of state manufacturers, and much of that revenue would be absorbed by the Board of Equalization to pay for fee collection. Perchlorate is just one of several existing and emerging chemicals that could be subject to similar proposals.

Along the same lines, Assemblymember Lori Saldana (D-San Diego) has introduced AB 1168 on drinking water standards and boron contamination. It requires the Department of Health Services to perform a risk assessment and develop a public health goal for boron by January 1st of 2008.

AB 1415 by Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) prohibits the sale or distribution of mercury relays and switches, lead in jewelry and lead or cadmium in tableware except under specified conditions.

There were two candy bills introduced this year – brought about be the discovery of high levels of lead in some Mexican candy distributed in California. Assemblymember Juan Vargas’ (D-San Diego) AB 121 has made some positive modifications to his bill from last year. Senator Joseph Dunn’s (D-Santa Ana) SB 985 would provide grants to 5 to 10 environmental justice groups to identify the candy to be tested for lead poisoning.
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