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Joint letter to Congress opposing bills that would undermine state and local labeling laws

The undersigned organizations are writing to express our strong opposition to recently introduced legislation that would block enforcement of most state and local right-to-know laws, and even some federal programs. These important laws require disclosure of ingredients in everyday consumer products that are linked to potential health risks, including cancer, birth defects, developmental harm to children and other diseases. The inaccurately labeled “Accurate Labels Act” (S. 3019/H.R. 6022) is alarming and radical legislation, promoted primarily by the chemical and grocery manufacturers, that would repeal most if not all existing labeling and information disclosure laws adopted by state or local governments.

In addition, the bill would effectively prevent the future adoption of any meaningful and health-protective right-to-know laws at the state or local level for nearly all consumer products and commodities, including:

● most food and beverages
● children’s toys and child care articles
● personal care products
● over-the-counter drugs and medical devices
● cleaning supplies
● cookware
● furniture and carpets
● electronics
● textiles and clothing
● building materials
● hardware supplies

As if that were not enough, the bill would potentially eliminate current and future federal agency-initiated information, ingredient disclosure and right-to-know requirements. Spun by industry as a reasonable approach to “leveling the playing field,” it would essentially decimate the “playing field” (meaning all 50 states and their local governments plus our federal agencies) so that no one will ever be able to play on it again.

To be clear, this bill does not authorize the federal government to label any additional products or require any additional information. Instead, it creates an enormous information dead zone by setting a laundry list of problematic and unprotective obstacles for both existing and future state laws, without replacing long-standing state authority with any action giving consumers the information they need and want to make informed choices for the health of their families.

Based on our initial review, the bill would likely eliminate existing state and local laws including:

● Requirements to disclose when household furniture contains toxic flame retardant chemicals (which are not needed for fire safety), many of which are associated with learning disabilities, cancer, reproductive harm, and hormone disruption and are known to be released from furniture into indoor air and dust.
● Eleven state laws requiring disclosure of mercury, a potent brain damaging chemical, in products and the need for its proper disposal as a hazardous waste.
● Requirements for full household cleaning product ingredient disclosure.
● California’s landmark law, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65) which has been responsible for the removal of hundreds of dangerous toxic chemicals including lead, cadmium and mercury from commercial and consumer products nationwide.
● Requirements to report on the use of chemicals of high concern in consumer (children’s) products.

Existing laws and authorities that would be eliminated by this anti-consumer and anti-health legislation were explicitly protected by Congress only two years ago in bipartisan legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that passed the House and Senate almost unanimously. The chemical and grocery manufacturers are now attempting this backdoor strategy to undo the historic compromise enacted by Congress by instead proposing to rewrite the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act to conceal their use of toxic chemicals in food and other consumer products.

Introduction of this legislation comes as many members of Congress are being confronted in their states and districts with the numerous failures of both the chemical and food industries to protect the public from exposure to unsafe chemicals, including lead, cadmium, mercury, phthalates, fluorinated (“Teflon”) chemicals and toxic flame retardants. American families want to know what’s in the food they eat, the water they drink, and the products they buy, especially if they can cause cancer, birth defects or other life-threatening ailments. Consumers’ right to know should outweigh the desire of corporations to deny them that knowledge. Local and state right-to-know laws have protected consumers across the country from dangerous chemicals in thousands of products while incentivizing safer products in the marketplace.

For example, drinking water and food supplies across the nation have been contaminated by highly fluorinated (“Teflon”) chemicals that have been associated with cancer, liver and kidney toxicity and hormone disruption. These chemicals last forever in the environment, yet the chemical and grocery manufactures have no answers for where these chemicals came from, where they are currently being used, or how to clean them up, and no data to back-up their claims that exposure to these chemicals is “safe” for consumers.

The health of Americans should come first. The chemical and grocery manufacturers have repeatedly failed to protect the American public from daily, ongoing exposure to dozens if not hundreds of toxic chemicals through food and other household products. It is remarkable that they now come to Congress seeking essentially a total annihilation of current and future right-to-know and consumer-protection labeling laws at the state and local level.

We urge you to oppose this dangerous family-unfriendly legislation that undermines the health of the American public and eliminates states’ existing ability to inform their citizens about the ingredients of products and the dangers that they may pose.

For the full letter, click here.