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Dayton signs Persell’s formaldehyde bill into law

BEMIDJI —Bill authored by a Bemidji lawmaker banning formaldehyde in children’s care products was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton Monday.

The legislation, authored by Bemidji DFLer Rep. John Persell, bans manufacturers and wholesalers from selling care products in Minnesota, like shampoo or lotion, designed for children younger than 8 years old that contain formaldehyde or ingredients that release formaldehyde. That ban begins August 1, 2014.

A year later, retailers must have those same products off of their shelves.

"It’s a good step to protect children’s health and I’m going to continue to work on those kinds of issues as long as I’m a legislator," Persell said this week.

Kathleen Schuler, co-director of Healthy Legacy, a Minnesota-based public health advocacy group that pushed for the legislation, said Minnesota is the first state to sign such a ban into law.

She said formaldehyde is used in personal care products as a preservative and can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Schuler said some products contain ingredients that turn into formaldehyde either in the bottle or while they’re being used.

"And parents are not going to be able to know that this particular long unpronounceable chemical is going to degrade into formaldehyde," she said. "So it’s protecting parents."

According to a fact sheet posted on Healthy Legacy’s website, short term effects of formaldehyde exposure can include eye, nose throat and skin irritation. It can also cause respiratory problems, like wheezing, when inhaled.

Schuler added it’s also important to protect kids who may be more vulnerable from potential long-term effects.

Schuler said Johnson & Johnson, a leading manufacturer of baby care products, has already agreed to phase out formaldehyde-related ingredients in its products by the end of 2013.

Although other companies haven’t put that commitment into writing yet, Persell said "industry has been moving" toward having fewer potentially-harmful ingredients in their products.

"This, I think, helps nudge some industry along," Persell said of his bill.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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