Toxic Free Kids Act
Priority Chemicals - Frequently Asked Questions
January 2011

Why did MDH create the list of Priority Chemicals?
A statute passed in 2009 (Minn. Stat. 116.9401 – 116.9407) required MDH to develop two lists of chemicals: Chemicals of High Concern and Priority Chemicals. As the statute directed, the Chemicals of High Concern list was published on July 1, 2010. This list, along with information on how the chemicals were selected, can be found on the Chemicals of High Concern page.

The statute also instructed MDH to make a list of Priority Chemicals by February 1, 2011. This list is now available on the MDH website and in the State Register. This list can be found on the Priority Chemicals page.

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What will MDH do with this list?
There are currently no requirements related to either the Chemicals of High Concern or the Priority Chemical lists in Minnesota. In other states where similar lists have been required by statute, such as Maine and Washington, manufacturers or importers of chemicals may be required to report to the state government if the chemicals are within particular consumer products.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and MDH submitted a report to the Minnesota Legislature on December 15, 2010 called "Options to Reduce and Phase-out Priority Chemicals in Children’s Products and Promote Green Chemistry." (PDF: 1,085KB/121 pages) This report outlines some options related to regulating or reducing the use of Priority Chemicals in consumer products.

In addition, a stakeholder process called Minnesota Chemical Regulation Project, coordinated by Minnesota Environmental Initiative (MEI), occurred during the past year. The Minnesota Chemical Regulation Project Phase I (PDF: 478KB/41 pages) report is now available. Phase II of the process, which will further explore chemical regulation, is planned for 2011. More information about this project is available at Minnesota Environmental Initiative: Minnesota Chemical Regulation Project.  

The Minnesota statute requires MDH to review and revise the Chemicals of High Concern list at least every three years. The Priority Chemicals list must be updated whenever a new Priority Chemical is named. The process for naming a new Priority Chemical is yet to be determined.

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How were the chemicals selected?
The statute provided criteria for the types of chemicals that should be included on the two lists. MDH used these criteria as a guide for selecting the chemicals. These criteria included information related to the toxicity of the chemical, the production or importation volume of the chemical (e.g., one million pounds or more per year), and where the chemical is found, such as in human tissue or body fluids, in indoor or home environments, drinking water, or in the natural environment.

A full description on how the Chemicals of High Concern were selected is available in the Minnesota Chemicals of High Concern Supporting Information.

Information about how the Priority Chemicals were selected is available in the Minnesota Priority Chemicals Supporting Information.

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What does it mean if a chemical is on the list of Priority Chemicals?
Through a screening process, chemicals meeting the requirements of Minn. Stat. 116.9401 – 116.9407 were identified. The chemicals selected are toxic and have been found in products or in environments where exposures to children or pregnant women are more likely. Exposures to the Priority Chemicals will not necessarily result in a health effect. However, there are some concerns about these chemicals that have prompted additional investigation by health or environmental agencies or researchers.

For most of the chemicals named, federal or state restrictions to reduce the exposure of children are already in place or will be in place soon. However, consumer awareness can also help in reducing exposures to the chemicals.

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Are the Priority Chemicals the only chemicals that are hazardous to children?
No. The statute requiring creation of the Chemicals of High Concern and Priority Chemicals lists contained several criteria. The current Priority Chemicals are those that best met the statute criteria during the initial evaluation and selection process. Under the statute, MDH is allowed to name additional chemicals to the Priority Chemical list. This could be considered in the future.

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Where are the Priority Chemicals found? How can I reduce my or my children’s exposure to the Priority Chemicals?
It may be difficult to determine which products contain a specific chemical: this information is often not available to consumers. However, some companies have begun labeling some products to show that the product does not contain a specific substance. For example, a product label may say “Bisphenol A free” or “low formaldehyde.” In addition, some retailers have decided not to sell products containing certain chemicals, such as cadmium or bisphenol A, above certain levels. Contacting a manufacturer or retailer about their policies related to chemicals in products or visiting the company’s website may provide information useful in making purchasing decisions.

Another resource for consumers is the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Recalls website. Through this site, product recalls are announced, including recalls related to chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, or phthalates, in children’s products.

The Household Products Database, maintained by the National Library of Medicine, also provides information about chemicals in certain consumer products.

In addition, the state of Massachusetts has a website called Chemicals Used in Mass created under the Toxic Use Reduction Act (TURA) with some information about chemicals used by companies producing products in Massachusetts. (Registration is required to view the data.) Additional general information about chemicals and alternatives is available on the Toxics Use Reduction Institute home page.

Some states, such as Maine, Washington, and California, plan to begin to require companies to report to the state government if certain substances are within particular consumer products. This information may be used to help ensure safety of consumer products in the future.

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Where can I get more information about the Priority Chemicals?
Summary information about the Priority Chemicals, such as toxicity information, possible sources of exposure to the chemical, and places to find updated information are available on the MDH Priority Chemicals page.

There is also information about many of the Priority Chemicals on a website called Tox Town: Chemicals maintained by the National Library of Medicine.

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Updated Thursday, 14-Nov-2013 10:28:52 CST