The state Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would ban chemicals from consumer products sold in Vermont if the state considers them harmful to human health.
S.239 passed by a vote of 18-12 Wednesday. It needs final approval from the Senate before moving to the House.
The legislation would allow the Department of Health to maintain a running list of potentially toxic chemicals. Manufacturers would have to report these chemicals to the state. The department could then require that some be labeled or banned from consumer products sold in Vermont.
Lawmakers want to put a more efficient system in place to keep watch on toxic chemicals linked to cancer, asthma, developmental disorders, reproductive health and the like. Vermont has regulated chemicals individually in the past, including lead, mercury, bisphenol A (BPA) and flame retardants.
“We’re talking about poison – poison that goes unregulated,” said Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D/W-Washington.
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office believes the bill has no constitutional problems – Vermont has banned chemicals in the past and the new system would still protect industry trade secrets – but businesses have been quick to oppose the bill, which they say will create a “patchwork” of state policies that impose costly reporting fees.
Joe Choquette, a lobbyist for the firm Downs Rachlin Martin, represents a broad range of interest groups who he said are opposed to the bill.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions and possibly unintended consequences,” he said. “It’s very broad. It’s not just children’s products, it’s all consumer products.”