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Bill to ban toxins in toys awaits action by year's end

Attorneys in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office are plowing through a record number of bills passed by the State Legislature this year, and deciding which ones to sign, and which ones to veto. Some measures have support but still might not make it into law this year, including one that would outlaw some harmful chemicals in children’s toys.

This year, the newly Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a record 900-plus bills. Since then, Cuomo and his counsel’s office have been plowing through the fine print, deciding which ones to approve, which to reject and which ones might need some tweaks to make them actually carry out what the sponsors intended. 

One that is still languishing is a measure known as the Child Safe Products Act. It would outlaw the sale of some toys and other children’s products like car seats and bedding that can contain over 100 harmful and toxic substances. 

Supporters, including Kate Kurera of Environmental Advocates of New York, said it’s a common-sense bill. 

“Asbestos and lead and formaldehyde just don’t belong in products that go into children’s mouths,” Kurera said. 

She said the bill existed for 10 years in the Legislature before Democrats gained control of both chambers and passed it unanimously last April. But it still has not been sent to the governor. 

“We are certainly nervous that there could be a veto,” Kurera said. 

The chemical industry has successfully sued other states that have attempted to adopt similar laws on the grounds that the restrictions are inconsistent with federal law.  

A source in the Cuomo administration said they are seeking a chapter amendment because the bill is technically flawed and would also outlaw chemicals that might be added for safety, like flame retardants, inserted into internal parts of toys that are inaccessible to children.

And a spokesman for the governor, Jason Conwall, said that the toxic toys bill and other legislation remain “under review” by the Counsel’s Office and the Division of the Budget. He said they are “working to ensure the bills, as written, are responsible, enforceable and accomplish their intended purpose.”

Others measures were vetoed in recent days, including a bill to ban a type of pesticide, chlorpyrifos, that’s been linked to harmful health effects for children. The governor said the measure was technically flawed. But he instead ordered his Department of Environmental Conservation to ban the substance by 2021.  

Another bill to regulate the hemp and CBD market in New York was amended through an agreement with the Legislature and for now will leave off the details of how to regulate CBD-infused food and beverages.

Cuomo officials said they hope to make it through most of the remaining 100 or so bills before the end of the year.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.