Legislative Update from Rep. Ruth Kagi: Celebrating Earth Day

Sunday, April 25, 2010


April 22 marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Not too many people remember that it was a Washington state resident, Denis Hayes, who organized the first Earth Day in 1970. It’s worth noting that Washington state continues to be a national leader in keeping our air, land and water clean and healthy.

Just this year, we led the way on banning the toxic chemical Bisphenol A from baby bottles, sippy cups and sports bottles. We were the second state to ban this chemical in sports bottles, and the fifth in children’s dishware. Bisphenol A is an estrogen-mimicking chemical that causes a range of developmental issues, with fetuses and infants being most susceptible. There's currently a big push to make this national law.

And remember the headlines a few years ago about the toxics being found in all kinds of children's toys? In 2008 we passed the first bill in the nation with strong standards for lead, cadmium and phthalates in children’s toys and products. Our Toxic Toys bill was so successful the Federal Government recently passed its own version modeled on much of what we had accomplished.

This year we also passed the first law in the country that begins to phase out copper brake pads. Every time a car or truck hits the brakes, a little bit of copper dust falls to the roadway. Eventually that copper gets washed into our streams and rivers and damages our salmon runs. We’re hopeful our efforts will be a catalyst for protecting fish all across the country.

Another big win for the environment this year was passage of the comprehensive producer responsibility program for mercury-containing light bulbs. This is the second such program to be launched in the whole country. People frequently toss their bulbs in their trash where the mercury slowly leaks into our groundwater supplies. Mercury harms the brain, kidney and liver, and this program ensures convenient access to disposal in all areas of the state and holds the producers of these light bulbs accountable for paying for their safe disposal.

This is in addition to our state's E-Waste program, the first in the nation to provide manufacturer-funded free recycling of computers, monitors, laptops and televisions. The program went into effect last year and collected 38 million pounds of TVs and computers. Check here for drop-off information.

There's more we could highlight, but the point is that we have long been champions of policies that not only protect our planet, but protect the health of the people who inhabit it.

Here are tips and ideas on how you can do the same.
Best regards,
Ruth 

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