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Where Colorado stands on controls of toxic chemicals

Exposure to toxic materials is something to take seriously. If you know that something could do you harm, chances are you will strive to avoid situations where contact might be possible.

Unfortunately, there are industries in Colorado in which exposure to hazardous chemicals is unavoidable. If you work in one, your employer has a responsibility to make sure you are aware of the dangers and equipped with the proper protection and training to minimize the risks. If you do suffer illness or injury as a result of your work, you are entitled to certain medical and financial benefits. Obtaining the full measure you deserve, though, can sometimes be a legal challenge.

The federal government takes responsibility for regulating some chemicals. However, under the unique tiered legislative system we have in the U.S., many states have taken steps on their own to identify chemicals of concern and restrict their use for the protection of residents.

Many might argue that some states go a little too far. One West Coast state exercises so much control that nearly every product you purchase has to carry a label that says it contains something that is known to cause cancer. Colorado, on the other hand, has one very broad chemical control law on the books.

This is in contrast to Maine, where lawmakers recently overrode the governor's veto to enact a law that effectively bans flame retardant chemicals on all residential furniture. Proponents of the measure, including Maine firefighters, hail the law as a common sense action that will protect consumers and firefighters from exposure to useless toxic elements. As one Maine fire official puts it, smoke detectors and sprinklers are what save lives – not fire retardants on furniture.

Maine's law is the first of its kind in the country, though it is likely that other states will follow suit. It seems fair to ask whether Colorado might be in a position to get on this particular bandwagon.

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