Update: Michigan LCV at the Capitol

Michigan LCV Education Fund Campaigns Director Bill Kirk spent a day at the Capitol on Wednesday April 21, lobbying on behalf of the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health.

The network represents a broad coalition of health professionals, health-affected organizations, faith based groups, and environmental and conservation advocates. The network’s legislative agenda encompasses many issues affecting the health of Michigan’s children, but the focus on Wednesday was the Michigan Senate, where most of these priorities are waiting for action.

The Children’s Safe Products Act, restrictions on the neurotoxin Lindane, and a ban on deca-BDE (a toxic flame retardant), have all passed the Michigan House of Representatives. It is up to leadership in the Senate to debate these issues and move forward to protect Michigan’s children from unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals.

The Children’s Safe Products Act (HB 4763-4769), passed the House by a nearly 2-1 margin in May of 2009 after which it was assigned to the Senate Health Policy committee, which is chaired by Senator Tom George (R-Kalamazoo). This legislation gives parents a right to know what toxic chemicals are present in products they purchase for their children by requiring large toy manufacturers to disclose that information to the Michigan Department of Community Health. In turn, the department would make that information publicly available through a website, allowing parents to view the information and make their own determinations as consumers.

Restrictions on the toxic pharmaceutical, Lindane (HB 4402), passed the House by a wide margin of 88-20 in March of 2009. Lindane, and outdated treatment for lice, has been prohibited for use in agriculture, the military, and in the prison system because of the adverse effects it can have on the human brain. Unfortunately, it can still be used on children when prescribed by a physician. With the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who helped to author the legislation, this bill would regulate Lindane so that it could only be used in the presence of a doctor. This legislation is designed to minimize the risk posed to children through exposure of this toxic chemical. Alternative treatments exist, and there is no reason for Michigan’s children to face such risk. The bill was assigned to the Government Operations and Reform Committee, chaired by Senator Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), where it will likely stay until this legislative session ends.

A ban on deca-BDE (HB 4699), a toxic flame retardant used in many everyday products, passed the house in January of 2010 by a vote of 94-6. Deca-BDE has been linked to problems with brain and hormonal development, as well as thyroid and liver problems. Other forms of this compound were banned by the Michigan legislature in 2004, at which time deca-BDE was to be studied and analyzed. Subsequent studies revealed that deca was just as harmful as the other banned forms, and should be banned provided that safe alternatives exist. Thankfully, safe alternatives do exist, and many companies, ranging from Herman Miller to Steelcase to LazyBoy to Sony to Hewlett Packard, have already voluntarily ceased using deca in any of their products. This bill simply makes a ban on deca the law of the land. Surprisingly, this bill was also assigned to the Government Operations and Reform committee.

The unfortunate reality of all of the legislation discussed here is that it has been stalled for partisan political reasons. These bills would not have an adverse affect on Michigan businesses, in fact, it they would help retailers here in Michigan who are trying to sell safe products to parents and it would provide companies like Dow a boost to make newer, safer chemical alternatives. This is another case where constituents need to ask their elected representatives why no action has been taken on these bills. State Senators owe the citizens of Michigan an explanation for these initiatives. In the long run, these bills are preventative medicine that would drive down long term health care costs that children exposed to these terrible chemicals would have to face later in life. This legislative package would also provide a competitive advantage to companies in Michigan that are developing the safe chemicals of the future and retailers who are voluntarily providing safer, cleaner products to consumers.

Please call you State Senator today. The first question you should ask them is why haven’t multiple bills related to the health of Michigan’s children been treated as a priority. If you hear the age old excuse of the “budget being the top priority right now,” ask them if the legislature is capable of voting on more than one piece of legislation in a day’s work.