Blog > Opinion

Policy, Like Pizza, New York-Style

Posted on April 5, 2012

by Kathy Curtis, Executive Director, Clean and Healthy New York

New York is famous for many things. Pizza. Snowy winters. And a chronically dysfunctional state legislature. It’s true, we’ve been known to produce our fair share of scandalous politicians, but good news is coming from our state these days. 

In the last few months the NY State Legislature has taken amazing advances to protect our resident’s health from toxic chemicals. We know this is a big deal for a lot of reasons. First, New Yorkers deserve to be protected from toxic chemicals in their homes. But the implications for our work spread far beyond the reaches of our state. 

We are helping drive reform of our federal laws, by applying state pressure. So what’s happening? 

So far, the Assembly has already passed a cadmium ban and acted to restrict two toxic chemicals from household couches and children’s products. We’ve also advanced comprehensive legislation to broadly regulate chemicals in children’s products. And with more than half of the session remaining, legislation is likely destined for the governor’s desk.

"Product testing continually reveals toxic chemicals in everyday products; lead in lipstick, tris in baby care products, cadmium in children’s jewelry, BPA in toys, and ethoxylates in paint are but a few examples."

Why such a flurry of activity, and so early in the legislative session?  

Perhaps the message from the electorate is finally getting through to elected officials. Maybe the slow but steady state-level momentum over the previous few years has reached a critical mass and created different expectations about what’s achievable. 

Product testing continually reveals toxic chemicals in everyday products; lead in lipstick, tris in baby care products, cadmium in children’s jewelry, BPA in toys, and ethoxylates in paint are but a few examples. It is increasingly clear that, while chemical makers continue to play defense, just about everyone else wants more hazard information, disclosure of use, and assurance of safety.  It could be that product makers realize it makes good business sense to capitalize on this wave of consumer concern, rather than jeopardizing the public trust by defending the status quo. 

It’s likely that New York’s unprecedentedly swift toxics policy advancement is attributable to broad, diverse support for disease prevention. It’s because of people like you. Environmental health is no longer a niche issue, but enjoys nearly-universal backing; from businesses, health care professionals, scientists, educators, legal and economic experts, health-affected constituencies, workers, environmental justice leaders, and, well, just about everybody but the chemical industry. People are sick and tired of bearing the brunt of one small segment of the economy’s externalized costs. Polling shows us that old, young, rich, poor, conservative and liberal people support stronger chemical regulation, regardless of their degree of education, racial makeup, or geographic location. 

It’s not surprising that New York and other states continue to enact laws to protect their residents. Although efforts to pass the Safe Chemicals Act in Congress shows promise, particularly in the U.S. Senate, Congress has yet to enact needed federal reform. In response to chemical industry claims that reform can only be addressed at the federal level, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh said it best: “When I’m a Congressman, I’ll work on federal chemicals legislation. But as long as I’m a state legislator, I’ll work on state legislation to protect people from toxic chemicals.”


Lead, tar, and a million other substances are in an insane amount of products. Why we haven't all switched to all natural alternatives already is beyond me.

Posted by: Martin Harrisson | Jan 8, 2013 11:52:13 AM

The NYS Legislature has been branded the most dysfunctional in the nation. Albany is known as a Capital City with a tradition of hardball politics that goes back centuries. Republicans and Democrats have a long history of polarization, with the Senate traditionally Republican, the Assembly traditionally Democratic and a line of Governor's from both parties. It is a state of nearly 20 million people, with extremes of urban, suburban and rural cultures, and an ethnic and socioeconomic diversity as rich and wide as any other state in the country.

WHICH IS ALL TO SAY KUDOS FOR THE NYS JUSTGREEN PARTNERSHIP'S AND CLEAN AND HEALTHY NEW YORK'S SUCCESSES IN MOVING THIS AGENDA! Thanks to leaders like Kathy, we're moving and succeeding against some very formidable odds.

Posted by: Stephen Boese | Apr 6, 2012 6:39:08 AM

Makes me want Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh to run for Congress! Way to go New York in the leading the way.

Posted by: Ansje | Apr 5, 2012 2:35:45 PM

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