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Public needs to be protected; State Senate has to get behind bill to regulate dangerous chemicals

The New York State Assembly has done its part in passing a comprehensive bill that would protect children from the list of potentially dangerous chemicals, and now the Senate must do the same.

Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, a Long Island Democrat who heads the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, has pushed for these provisions, backed by the Just Green Partnership, a diverse collaboration of more than 50 organizations.

The Child Safe Products Act includes:

Establishment of a list of "chemicals of high concern," about 1,800 chemicals that are linked to health problems.

Identification from that list of "priority chemicals," starting with a dozen chemicals in products made for children ages 12 and under.

Starting in 2016, a prohibition on sales in New York of children's products containing those priority chemicals.

This is an effort that deserves the attention of the Senate and championing by Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, Environmental Conservation Committee chairman.

Grisanti has already demonstrated leadership on another bill that gained bipartisan support in the Assembly. He is pushing the Senate version, which expands the Tris-free Children and Babies Act to include the form of the fire-retardant tris (TDCPP) that was removed from children's sleepwear in 1979 because it can harm DNA. The bill is expected to be on the next Environmental Conservation Committee agenda.

The last time the federal government took action on toxic chemicals was in 1976. Nothing has been done since then to change how toxics are governed, and yet there has been a huge advance in our understanding of how chemicals work. None of that is reflected in national policy, although both Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand are co-sponsors of the Safe Chemicals Act at the federal level.

But New York can't wait for the feds.

The president's cancer panel reports that nearly 80,000 chemicals are used in the country today, many of which are unstudied and largely unregulated, according to JustGreen Partnership.

New York prohibits the use of dangerous chemicals on a chemical-by-chemical basis. The Child Safe Products Act would set up a comprehensive regulatory framework in which dangerous chemicals and children's products can be banned.

Certainly, the subject of chemicals with tongue-twisting names is a dense topic that makes it hard to grab the audience's attention. But it is important to all families that they can be confident that the products they buy do not pose a risk to their children.

Government has an obligation to make sure the public is protected from such risks.