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Vermont Senate OKs Chemicals Bill

On May 5, 2014, the Vermont Senate gave final approval to a bill that would ramp up regulatory scrutiny of the chemicals found in children's products.  The bill, S.239, gives the Vermont Department of Health the authority to require manufacturers to report, label, and remove chemicals it considers harmful from products for children.  Until now, the Legislature has had the sole authority to regulate or ban specific chemicals.  This bill transfers full regulatory authority to the Department of Health.

In an April 29, 2014 vote, the Vermont House had significantly limited the scope of the bill previously approved by the Senate from all consumer products to only products for children 12 and under.  In its May 5th vote, the Senate re-amended the bill to expand this definition to include products that children 12 and under are likely to come into contact with.

Here are some highlights of the most recently-approved version of the Vermont bill:

  • Adopts a "watch list" of 66 "chemicals of very high concern to children," including phthalates, bisphenol-A, and heavy metals;
  • Sets up a new working group to advise the health commissioner on possible additions to the "watch list."  All proposed additions will be reviewed by a legislative committee;
  • Requires that manufacturers report the presence of chemicals on the "watch list" to a state website every two years starting July 1, 2016;
  • Excludes packaging from the definition of "consumer products," meaning the chemicals used in product packaging are free from the bill's regulatory scrutiny.

The bill is headed back to the House for final approval.

UPDATE:  On May 7, 2014, Vermont House lawmakers voted to strike several of the Senate-approved amendments expanding the scope of the bill.  Notably, the House struck down the Senate’s expansion of the definition of “consumer products” to include products that children 12 and under are likely to come into contact with. The House version also reinstated a clause requiring a working group set up under the bill to first make a recommendation on whether to regulate chemicals.  The bill is headed back to the Senate, but whether they will re-amend it remains to be seen.  Stay tuned for an update on the final version of the bill once this game of legislative ping pong is over…


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Mina Nasseri