2012 Environmental Health Legislation

Article excerpt


2012 marked the fourth year since the great recession began and the third since it ended, according to government statistics. For state legislatures, however, 2012 marked the first year the states had to balance budgets without federal stimulus funding, instead relying on state revenues. This forced the austerity measures that the states began during the recession to remain in place. The good news is that states survived the past year without suffering from severe budget gaps (the difference between revenue and expenditures). The bad news is that they remain under fiscal constraint.

In 2012 state legislatures met in 44 of the 50 states, plus in Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Although the biggest concern remains the budget, health insurance exchanges came in a close second. Medicaid is the largest single expenditure in most states; therefore bringing health care costs under control was a major issue, as were education, transportation, and welfare.

Bills on environmental health were introduced in every state in session. Of the states (and territories) in session, legislators proposed 1,556 pieces of legislation, of which 192 passed into law. The enacted laws have been categorized among 13 subject areas, including asbestos; asthma; biomonitoring, tracking, and surveillance; children's environmental health; drinking water; food safety; indoor air quality; lead; mercury; pesticides; swimming pools; toxics and chemicals; and miscellaneous. Food safety saw the greatest number of bills introduced (285), as well as the greatest number of enacted laws (45). Biomonitoring, surveillance, and tracking represents the category with the fewest laws proposed (14) and passed (1).


Thirteen bills were adopted relating to asbestos. Four of those laws were passed in three states (Louisiana, Virginia, and West Virginia) to recognize Mesothelioma Awareness Day Virginia and West Virginia recognize this day of awareness on September 26; Louisiana chose October 17. Laws pertaining to the liability of successor corporations for asbestos claims passed in Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, and Utah. All four states limit a successor corporation's asbestos liability to "the fair market value of the gross assets of the transferor [at] the time of merger or consolidation."


Of the six bills pertaining to asthma that passed into law, one allows schools to administer epinephrine to students in the event of an allergic reaction; all three protect school nurses from liability arising from the administration of epinephrine to students. These laws were passed in Illinois and Virginia (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/ PMH0001847/). The remaining laws related to asthma were passed in Pennsylvania to recognize World Asthma Day. The dates chosen were May 3 for 2011 and May 1

for 2012.

Biomonitoring, Tracking, and Surveillance

One law was found to have passed that relates solely to biosurveillance. NE L 591 passed in May 2011. The law requires the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to develop a surveillance program to monitor "public health threats." The law also requires the department to develop an immunization database and amends language in other statutes.

Children's Environmental Health

Children's environmental health covers a wide variety of topics. Consequently, most children's environmental health laws overlap with the other topics surveyed. Three of the 25 bills that passed address the presence of bisphenol-A (BPA), in children's products. The laws were passed in California, Delaware, and Maine. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, BPA has been used in packaging materials for over 40 years (http://www. hhs.gov/safety/bpa/). (1) CA A.B. 1319, which passed in 2011, bans the use of BPA in bottles or cups for young children in amounts exceeding 0.1 parts per billion, and requires manufactures to "use the least toxic alternative. …