Chemicals and Our Children

April 27, 2012

In recent weeks, I have received numerous letters and emails regarding two pieces of legislation that would study and limit the use of certain chemicals that could affect the health and wellbeing of children. While I do not serve on the committees that introduced and debated these issues, I believe it is important to do some research before they come up for a vote. With about two weeks remaining in the legislative session this year, I look forward to hearing a debate on these and many other bills in the Senate Chamber.

First, House Bill 5218, “An Act Concerning Toxic Fire Retardants In Children’s Products,” would ban any product containing certain flame retardant chemicals that is marketed for use by children under the age of three or by their parents or guardians. Specifically, these chemicals include three different types of Tris chlorophosphates. According to testimony submitted by the Department of Public Health, these have been “associated with carcinogenic activity and damage to internal organs.” Initially introduced by the Select Committee on Children, this bill was later favorably voted to the Environment Committee for further consideration.

Supporters argue that a ban is necessary because the harmful carcinogenic effects of these chemicals strongly outweigh any possible benefits of fire prevention. Many doctors, nurses and public health advocates turned out to share these concerns. In testimony, one noted that the chemicals were banned from children’s pajamas in the 1970s but has remained in use in other fabrics that parents use to care for children, including nursing pillows and changing mattresses.

Opponents raised concerns about finding a replacement fire retardant that would ensure future fire safety and that distributors and retails may not ultimately know whether a product contains these chemicals or not. These arguments will certainly be raised again during a final debate, and I look forward to hearing from both sides.

Next, Senate Bill 274, “An Act Concerning Chemicals Of Concern To Children,” would require the state Department of Public Health (DPH) to create a report identifying chemicals that could harm children and ultimately regulate their use. Introduced by the Public Health Committee, this report would include:

  • Chemicals currently identified and/or regulated by other states;
  • Programs that evaluate or regulate these chemicals;
  • Regulations of their use in manufacturing and the disposal process;
  • Programs that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) use to regulate these chemicals;
  • Evaluation of how the Department of Consumer Protection could monitor and enforce regulations;
  • Opinion whether the state should regulate these chemicals;
  • Recommendations to improve this regulation; and
  • Evaluation of whether green chemistry can be used to remediate their effects.

Supporters argue that a list of potentially harmful chemicals is necessary to understand how they might affect our children. Scientific studies have already been completed, and other states have already begun to identify and regulate the chemicals.

Opponents shared concerns that the DPH may not be the appropriate government agency to consider this type of regulation and that the information contained in the report would ultimately be used to justify further regulation of certain chemicals. If passed, the report would be compiled and submitted to three legislative committees that would then consider whether to pursue further legislation to regulate or prohibit the chemicals.

In the coming weeks, both of these bills will likely be voted on before each chamber of the legislature. Throughout this time, I look forward to listening to the debate before coming to a final decision. If you would like more information about these bills, please visit the Connecticut General Assembly website at and search for H.B. 5218 and S.B. 274.