HEALTH Measure to protect children
The lawmaker's proposal creates a task force to recommend safety standards.
By MICHELE C. HLADIK
COLUMBUS -- Is Ohio too toxic for children?
State Rep. Kathleen Chandler would like the state to take steps toward answering that question and determining ways to make the state safer for its smallest residents.
"I'm concerned about children's environmental health issues," Chandler said.
She said she became increasingly concerned about the issue after attending conferences of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.
The Kent Democrat said she plans to introduce legislation to create a special task force charged with identifying areas of concern and recommending ways Ohioans and lawmakers can make the state less toxic.
Chandler said she would like to see a task force also look into Parent's Right to Know laws that could inform parents of potentially harmful chemicals.
She said the task force would also be able to look into a program that would set and monitor safety requirements at Ohio schools.
Under her proposal, the task force would also look into recommending setting safety standards for children.
Chandler admitted she isn't sure who should be on the task force, but she would like to see it include a chemist, a pediatrician and a bio scientist.
One area Chandler said she would like to see change is the method used to determine toxicity of a chemical.
She said there are about 75,000 different chemicals throughout the state, and the toxicity of most is unknown.
She added the current formula for determining toxicity is based on the body of an adult male.
"What doesn't necessarily hurt an adult could hurt a child," Chandler stated.
She said she learned there is an alarming rate in the increase of autism as well as increases in learning disabilities including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.
She said there has also been a tremendously large number of young Ohioans developing multiple sclerosis in Northeast Ohio.
Chandler said harmful chemicals can be found in many common items including fire-retardant clothes, some wooden decks and play equipment, jewelry and even water.
She said babies typically crawl around on the floor and could easily put something toxic in their mouths.
Even the way some schools have children line up to get on the school bus can be dangerous if they are placed too close to the bus and breath in the harmful fumes, Chandler added.
She said there is no reason the exhaust from school buses can't be cleaned up.
"We have the technology," she added. "We need to become concerned."
One large problem Ohio children face is levels of mercury, Chandler said, adding that the state may not be doing all it can to protect children from a common chemical.
"We have mercury switches in cars, but when a car is demolished it goes into the landfills," she said.
The proposed measure already has the support of the Ohio House of Representatives Women Democratic Caucus, said state Rep. Catherine Barrett.
Barrett said the group believes Ohio is lacking legislation that benefits children and their safety.
Passing the measure
The Cincinnati Democrat remained guarded as to chances Chandler's measure could pass in the Legislature under the Republicans.
"It's very hard for Democrats to get anything through the House," she added.
She said the main concern would involve the cost of the task force including paying its members to meet.
Chandler said she expects to introduce the legislation creating the task force within the next couple of months.
Chandler remained optimistic about the proposal's chance of receiving legislative approval.
"I think it's a simple thing to ask," she said. "I think everyone down in Columbus cares about children's health. I don't think it would be very costly."
Earlier this year, Chandler introduced legislation that would allow law enforcement to stop and cite cars when they notice children are not restrained by seat belts. The measure is still under consideration by the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
Chandler said she also is considering introducing legislation that would require seat belts on school buses. She said her proposal would begin with requiring seat belts in new school buses and would gradually grow to include all current school buses as well.