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Pushing to Regulate Toxic Chemicals in Vermont

From cleaning supplies to your kids' toys, many everyday products contain toxic chemicals.
MONTPELIER - From cleaning supplies to your kids' toys, many everyday products contain toxic chemicals.

When Abigail Mnookin had her daughter less than two years ago, she tried to keep products containing those chemicals out of her home.

"My daughter has a cotton lovey, wears cloth diapers, drinks out of a stainless steel sippy cup with a silicone spout...and sleeps on a non-toxic crib mattress wearing wool pajamas," she said. But she says even all that is not enough.

"Even if I tried my hardest to limit exposure, it's impossible to eliminate," she said. Believe it or not, the rubber ducky is a symbol of the national movement to ban toxic chemicals. There is a book called "Slow Death by Rubber Duck" that details the phthalates in the bath toy. It's why VPIRG executive director Paul Burns dressed his son in a duck costume at the Statehouse Wednesday.

"People don't realize that a lot of the rubber ducks they buy in a store are actually toxic, especially to children," Burns said.

"Certainly phthalates have direct health effects," said Senator Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden), the lead sponsor of the bill to regulate toxic chemicals. Sen. Lyons says until now, the legislature had to ban each chemical one-by-one.

"It was a struggle," she said. "For each chemical to go through that...and we look at a daunting task of 80,000 chemicals that are potentially toxic, it doesn't make sense for the legislature to have to do that."

The job will be given to the Vermont Department of Health. The bill would give that department the authority to make a list of high priority chemicals. Manufacturers who use chemicals on the list will need to swap them out for something else. If they don't comply within a certain time frame, they will need to take their products off the shelves.

"We're looking potentially at chemicals that have devastating effects...neuro-biological, learning disabilities, autism," Sen. Lyons said.

She says several manufacturers have expressed concerns about the bill, including IBM, which has local ties. As of Wednesday evening, an IBM spokesperson had not returned FOX44/ABC22's phone calls or emails. Senator Lyons says as her committee debates the bill, they will take local manufacturers' interests into consideration.

The bill is being debated in the Senate Health and Welfare committee. Washington, California and Maine have already passed similar laws.
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