A recent Business Forum commentary supporting stronger state regulation of products made with certain chemicals and marketed to children under 12 was excellent fodder for rallying consumer advocacy groups (“It’s time to protect kids from toxins,” March 23). The authors delivered a great sound bite: “This year, we have another chance to create a better future for our children.” Unfortunately, they told only half of the story that’s central to the debate at the Minnesota Legislature.
For starters, the commentary failed to mention that the proposed legislation duplicates existing regulations on the state and federal levels. In Minnesota alone, the Department of Health, the Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Commerce oversee the sale of products to children under 12.
Washington, Vermont, Maine and California all have or are developing information on children’s products that is readily available. There is no sense in “reinventing the wheel.” All our regulatory agencies have to do is ask for the information or click on Google.
Most telling about the proposal, however, is this statement in the commentary: “Reporting is all that the Toxic Free Kids Act would require — it’s not a ban or a labeling mandate. But it would provide parents and conscientious retailers with critical information to help them choose safer products.”
The data being requested by advocates, to be useful to consumers, must have a frame of reference. The mere presence of a chemical does not make a chemical harmful. Dose and exposure are key components of any regulation. Without that context, consumers can be unnecessarily frightened.
The state of Washington underscores that point on its website, noting:
• The data are not based on health-based values.
• The presence of a chemical in a children’s product does not necessarily mean that the product is harmful to human health or that there is any violation of existing safety standards or laws.
• The data should not be used to determine the safety of an individual product.
Chemical regulations should be based on sound science and peer-reviewed data. Providing confusing and duplicative information to consumers does not allow for informed decisions.
Tony Kwilas is director of environmental policy at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.