A new study produced entitled, “Poison in Paint, Toxics in Toys” was released by the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Maine. As a result, Michigan State Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) is introducing legislation based on this report that would require public disclosure of chemical ingredients in children’s products in Michigan. The Safe Children’s Product Act, would require Michigan to create a list of so-called “chemicals of concern” in children’s products as well as requiring importers and large manufacturers to disclose the presence of these chemicals in their children’s products. Sounds reasonable right?
Unfortunately, the study and the legislation is not based sound science but rather the paralyzing precautionary principle.
For instance the report detailed children’s products, along with other household items, that contain trace amounts of BPA — even though the Food and Drug Administration had already come out and stated that low levels of exposure to BPA are safe. Another example is that many industry advocates dispute the health risks of NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) that were found in “other household items” which are used in cleaners, wood finishes and other home maintenance products.
Although the legislation put forth by Senator Warren only involves children’s products, she is using the study to make her bigger case against chemicals like NPEs. Even though NPEs were not even found in any of the children’s products studied. Even if NPEs were found in children’s products, a Dow Chemical product safety assessment from October 2010 said the results of a number of mammalian toxic studies concluded that human safety was not a concern for these compounds.
The threshold for reasonably safe chemical exposure in consumer products varies significantly depending on the amount of chemical used in the product, what the item is used for, and who is in contact with it. For instance, a flame-retardant chemical may be toxic if you drink a significant amount of it, but when used on clothing it provides important protection at little to no risk.
So what is this really about? Some would argue that this is yet another counter-productive campaign by nanny-state interest groups aiming to protect the American public from itself. Unfortunately, these type of regulations have real consequences and end up costing consumers and the economy millions while producing little to no actual public health benefits. As we have seen, the more government regulates — based on bad information and principles — the more each of us suffers. Businesses and the hard workers they employ are hurt by having to impose costly restrictions and consumers end up paying a higher costs for the product.
Certainly, no one wants children ingesting harmful toxins. But basing regulations on the precautionary principle is not the proper way to regulate. Michiganders are living longer than ever as a result of more prosperity and higher living standards due to many chemicals that these very groups aim to regulate.
As S.T. Karnick, Director of Research at Heartland, recently said: Making it more expensive for consumers to buy common (and safe) household items and toys, “will actually lower living standards and thus individual health and longevity.”