Minn. Bills May Ban Chemicals in Child Products, Force Disclosure

Updated: 02/27/2013 6:16 AM KSTP.com By: Stephen Tellier

How can you be sure the products your kids come in contact with are safe?

Minnesota lawmakers are looking at creating new laws to help answer that question.

Three bills dealing with toxic chemicals came before a house committee on Tuesday afternoon. The first, which would ban BPA from children's food packaging, has already passed that committee. Another would ban formaldehyde from kids' products like soap and shampoo. The third would force manufacturers to tell the state which toxic chemicals are in each of their products geared toward kids.
 
"I think that this is a common sense bill that Minnesota consumers, and especially parents, will appreciate," said Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, the main author of one of the bills.
 
Sarah Kallal has her hands full, with 2-year-old twins and an 11-month-old. But she still said her kids touching toxic chemicals is a top concern.
 
"Their shampoos and their conditioners, the bubble bath -- it's everywhere. We're surrounded by so many chemicals," Kallal said.
 
And she said looking at labels isn't much help.
 
"It makes it really hard to tell what's safe and what's not," Kallal said.
 
"They have to do a research project to figure out which products to buy their kids," said Kathleen Schuler, co-director of Healthy Legacy, a coalition of health groups across the state.
 
Schuler pointed to products on the shelves right now in Minnesota that still pose dangers, such as some packaging for kids' canned foods, certain kinds of lids on jars, and some soaps and shampoos.
 
"We want to make sure that all products on store shelves are safe," Schuler said.
 
Schuler is asking for laws that would ban some chemicals and force manufacturers to tell the state about others in their products.
 
"If they're disclosed by the manufacturer, then the health department can provide more information to parents," Schuler said.
 
But laws wouldn't require changes on product labels. So parents would have to go to the state to find that information.
 
"I just flat out don't have time to be researching what is safe and what is not," Kallal said.
 
Still, she said she supports the push to protect her little ones.
 
"I think someone needs to step up to the plate to protect our children," Kallal said.
 
So why doesn't the legislation require companies to identify the toxic chemicals in all of their products, right on the label? We're told it's simply too expensive, both for manufacturers and the state.
 
The three bills would still cost the state money, as more workers would need to be hired. But no one's saying exactly how much it could cost.
 
Schuler said California, Washington, and Maine are the only other states with such stringent toxic chemical laws.