Or: A recap of Assembly Hearing in New York City and the Healthy Economy and Environment Conference in Albany yesterday.
By Kathy Curtis, Executive Director
The Assembly Environmental Conservation, Consumer Affairs and Protection, and Health Committee Chairs hosted a hearing at 250 Broadway about toxic chemicals in children's products. Numbers in the room showed an outpouring of support for child-safe products: doctors, moms, businesses, lawyers and others outnumbered opponents by more than 3 to 1. Some of the opponents were no surprise: the American Chemistry Council and the Business Council of New York State.
What we found puzzling were the objections of children's product associations: the Juvenile Products Manufacturers, Fashion Jewelry Trade, and the Toy Industry Associations. We would have thought they'd be supportive of more clarity in their supply chain, would value the resource of a high hazard list of chemicals to avoid, and appreciate the opportunity to restore consumer confidence by clearly disclosing the materials and chemicals they use.
Parents at the hearing and across the country have demonstrated that they strongly prefer, in fact insist upon, safe and healthy products for their babies and children. Could these children's product trade associations misunderstand their own customers that badly? Could they really so dangerously underestimate the commitment parents have to protecting their own children from toxic chemicals? Apparently so.
The product maker trade associations raised concerns about having no thresholds for reporting, and were concerned that, without lots of costly testing, they would be liable if raw materials providers lied to them about what was in the materials that were used to make their finished children's product. But this was clear progress: It was a true shifting of the debate from 'it's impossible, we can't do it,' to 'how should we do it?' or 'what's the best way to do it?'
It was also a real switch that the product trade association panel was matched by a sustainable business panel that clamored for the transparency and even playing field the Child-Safe Products Act would provide, saving them time and money on rigorous research to make sure their products and materials were safe. After the sustainable business panel testified and it was time for the Assembly Members to ask questions, one Assembly member said "My first question is how do I invest in your companies and where can I buy what you're selling?"
In contrast, the Healthy Economy and Environment symposium in Albany focused on hosting the Environmental Excellence Awards, and workshops about avoiding regrettable substitution, buying local, incentive programs such as green procurement, and public policy as innovation drivers. The conference participants represented businesses, agency staff, legislative staff, academics, NGOs, and the general public, all of whom were collaborating to create a sustainable vision for NYS. The posters and exhibitions were informative and inspiring, and the overall sense was that a paradigm shift is not only possible, but is gathering momentum. It's a foundation we can build on towards a just, green, toxic-free future. Makes me look forward to tomorrow.