September / 2017

Federal Panel Votes to Protect Public Against Flame Retardants in Baby Products, Furniture

Huge Win for Environmental Health Advocates

On September 20, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) granted a joint petition to ban the entire harmful chemical class of organohalogen flame retardants in children’s products, furniture, mattresses, and electronics cases.

The Chicago Tribune reported  that Commissioner Robert Adler compared industry arguments against taking action to Big Tobacco’s attempts to delay government responses to the health dangers of cigarette smoking, stating, “The more evidence accumulates, the stronger we see the case against the use of these chemicals.”

JMF grantees Earthjustice and the Learning Disabilities Association of America joined with many others to submit the petition in 2015, hoping that the CPSC would act, as they have, to protect children, firefighters, and consumers from the dangerous health impacts of flame retardants.

This ruling sets a precedent of considering entire classes of chemicals with similar properties and similar hazards, rather than considering them one chemical at a time, which can lead to regrettable substitutions. The Green Science Policy Institute is doing valuable work popularizing this class-based approach to safer chemistry. Their six-minute video on flame retardants is available here.

While the new rule is being enacted, the CPSC will publish a Guidance Document in the Federal Register advising manufacturers of children’s products, furniture, mattresses, and electronics cases to decrease the unnecessary use of organohalogen flame retardants in their products. The commission also set in motion what will likely be a contentious debate about new regulations prohibiting manufacturers from adding any halogenated flame retardants to products covered by the ban.

Overall, the CPSC’s actions should go a long way toward moving the market towards healthier products.

July / 2017

Rhode Island Releases Food Strategy

On May 17, Rhode Island released its new five-year Food Strategy Plan, which is built around five action goals:

1. alleviate food insecurity and hunger throughout the state;

2. make food production more accessible;

3. create and sustain markets for Rhode Island food products;

4. promote environmental sustainability; and

5. support an economic climate friendly to food-related businesses.

The plan has been a goal for the state since 2011, when JMF grantee the Rhode Island Food Policy Council was founded. Since then, state leaders and local innovators have developed many initiatives to support food producers and provide more opportunities for all Rhode Islanders to access healthy food.  A year ago, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo hired Susan Anderbois as Director of Food Strategy, the first position of its kind in the country.

Rhode Island’s food sector supports over 60,000 local jobs, and generated $2 billion in sales for restaurants in 2016.  However, only 1 percent of the food consumed by state residents is harvested locally and 35 percent of waste is made up of food and compostable material. Moreover, 12 percent of Rhode Islanders are considered “food insecure.”

The Rhode Island Food Policy Council is creating a series of multimedia stories to bring the reality of what it’s like to work in, and be fed by, Rhode Island’s food system day to day.  The first story features fantastic interviews with dairy farmers in the state, who are being squeezed economically, and the second features senior citizens visited by the mobile food truck Food on the Move, which makes fresh, local produce available to those facing food insecurity.

“I feel such optimism about our state’s food strategy, [and] we need everyone’s energy and ideas,” said Janet Coit, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM). “My most treasured traditions involve food; for example, summer doesn’t start for me until I go strawberry picking with my daughter, Nina. Today, I think we will look for an outcome where every Rhode Islander will have those experiences and have an opportunity to eat healthy, local food.”