Nov. 10 2010 12:00 AM

A rally at the Capitol urges the state Senate to pass the Children’s Safe Products Act

Wednesday, Nov. 10 — A 25-foot inflatable yellow duck that sat in front of the Capitol building on Tuesday morning was half a pun on our political process, half a symbol of the lack of regulation of chemicals in toys.

The duck, an homage to bathtub rubber ducks from childhood, was part of an initiative by the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health aimed at urging the state Senate to not be idle in its lame duck session, and to pass the Children’s Safe Products Act.

“Michigan Senators can’t pack up and go home for the holidays in good conscience without passing the Children’s Safe Products Act,” said Jennifer Canvasser, spokeswoman for the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health.

The Act aims to provide consumers with the right to know about toxic chemicals that could be in children’s products and toys. Other states such as Maine, Minnesota and Washington have similar legislation that is stronger than the Children’s Safe Products Act.

duck_at_capitol.jpgCanvasser says manufacturers are not required to disclose chemicals used in their children’s toys, and can call something like cadmium — a toxic metal used mostly for making batteries, but which also has been found in children’s jewelry — a “trade secret.”

Meghan Swain, executive director of the Michigan Association for Local Public Health, pointed to evidence that showed children’s products that contain toxic chemicals can lead to learning and developmental disorders, infertility, cancer and other health problems.

“This is a consumer product safety issue,” Swain said. “The government cannot talk about saving health care dollars if we don’t look at the toxic chemicals in the products our children use.”

Swain called it a public health crisis that dangerous chemicals in toys are the norm in our society.

Heidi Conneally, a concerned mother of a 3-year-old, urged Michigan to follow the lead of the other states. She said that our focus should not just be on treatments and cures for diseases like cancer, but instead should begin with prevention.

“We need to be like other states, and make sure that if it’s on the shelf it’s safe,” Conneally said. “We need to protect our most important resource and our most vulnerable people.”

State Reps. Rebekah Warren and Richard Ball were present Tuesday, acknowledging that the Act passed through the state House of Representatives in May 2009 with bipartisan support. Both representatives said that they hoped the Senate would take similar action as the House.

Canvasser said the Act has been tied up "by partisan politics" in the Senate.

In addition to the large duck outside the Capitol, each Senator received a toxic-free rubber duck with a message urging them to not be “lame ducks.”

“This legislation is simple. It’s about the power of consumers,” Mike Shriberg, policy director of the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center, said. “We can’t wait for federal action. We need the Senate to step up and protect Michigan families.”

Photo by Meghan Spork/City Pulse.