Laws Against Toxins: Could Washington's Safe Products Law Be a Model?

Much discussion has been made about what consumers and activists can do to help end the use of toxins in clothing, but what about lawmakers? What can be done and what currently is being done? In 2008, Washington passed a law that may provide some guidelines called the Children's Safe Products Act. This law requires businesses to report all toxic chemicals used in products designed for children, including clothing. This doesn't apply to adults, though children are the people most likely to be effected by such substances. The state uses a list of 66 chemicals which are thought to be the greatest risk to children.

In August of 2012 the law began to be implemented. The largest retailers had until 2013 to be in compliance while smaller companies have until 2017. Every six months, new companies (smaller ones each time) become subject to the law until it is eventually applied universally. This would allow companies to adapt to the law without being put under too much strain.  To date, several companies have released full disclosures of potentially dangerous products used in their clothing (and other products as well). These companies include Walmart, Gap, H&M and J.C. Penney.

Washington was one of the first states to take action of this kind against toxins via legislation. The law is a good start and could potentially serve as a model for the rest of the nation. At the federal level, a proposed Safe Chemicals Act was introduced in 2013 to amend the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Law in order to "insure that risks from chemicals are adequately understood and managed".

However, it's important to remember that legislative progress of this kind only requires companies to notify consumers of toxins used. There is no mandate to eliminate them. Therefore, the burden still rests on the consumers who now have the information needed in places like Washington. Knowing what's in children's clothing is the first step, the next is putting pressure on these companies to not use these products in the first place.

Chemicals Revealed: Over 5000
Washington State Children's Safe Products Act
Safe Chemicals Act of 2013
Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976