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Baby brigade battles toxic toys

From left, Jamaica Mile, Deputy Director for Clean and Healthy New York Bobbi Chase Wilding and Dorian Solot, along with their children, held a “stroller brigade” in support of legislation to ban toxic chemicals from children’s products. Photo by Brandon B. Quinn.
May 25, 2012
Advocates for toxic chemical-free children's products held a "stroller brigade" in Albany's Academy Park to urge the Senate to pass legislation protecting children from dangerous chemicals.

Mothers pushing their children in strollers, as well as other supporters, assembled in front of a 25-foot "rubber ducky" because the Senate appears to be "ducking" reform, said Bobbi Chase Wilding deputy director of Clean and Healthy New York.

The group marched through the Capitol to give a card to the office of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, reading "please protect kids' health."

"As the mom of an adult with autism and developmental disabilities, I can't help but wonder what she was exposed to in her crib and what toxic toys we might have bought her," said advocate Julie Walter, who is trained as a special education teacher.

Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, sponsors a bill that would expand the Tris-Free Children and Babies Act to further restrict the chemical Tris. Tris flame retardants, often used in children's products such as car seats and nursing pillows, have been linked to cancer, mutations, hormone disruption and nervous system harm.

"[Tris flame retardants] don't actually prevent fires and kids are constantly being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals," said Wilding.

The Assembly version of this bill (A.9045) is sponsored by Robert Sweeney, D-Babylon, and passed in March, but Wilding says the Senate version has been "sidetracked" to the Senate Finance Committee.

"We think they're trying to duck reform," she said. "They're trying to get out of their responsibilities of protecting New York state's children and we're calling on them to step up and protect laws that are going to protect their kids' health."

The advocates are also pushing for the Senate to introduce and pass legislation requiring manufacturers of children's products to disclose use of and ultimately phase out dangerous chemicals. The Assembly passed the legislation (A.3141), sponsored by Sweeney, last month.

"We could stop taking this on one chemical at a time and start actually prioritizing chemicals that cause harm and requiring companies to disclose if they're using them in children's products," said Wilding. "We think this is a very common sense measure."

David Levine, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council said government "has a clear role to play" to create access to necessary information and guidelines "especially when the absence threatens people's health as well as hinders business innovation."

Consumers should decide what products to buy, said Levine, and the market will respond. "The truth is that without access to information that helps distinguish between safer and toxic chemicals and products, both our businesses and consumers are operating in an unfair marketplace," he said.

Curtis said the bills to restrict dangerous chemicals in children's products could be held up because the Republican-led Senate "tends to be more business friendly" but businesses need to read their consumers more accurately.

She added even during a time where businesses are closing, green and healthy product manufactures are experiencing double-digit growth. "The public has spoken," she said, "they want healthy products."

"This isn't a partisan issue," said Curtis. "Democrat or Republican, we all want to give our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews the best possible start in life."

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