Policy Impact

The Center findings have been used to support, pass, and enforce laws that protect environmental and public health. Through a longstanding partnership with WE ACT for environmental justice, the Center’s findings have been used to influence policy in the areas of air pollution, asthma initiatives, secondhand smoke, residential pesticides, and chemical reform.

Environmental Health and Justice Policy Over the Years 

2023 - 2018


Washington State Toxic-Free Cosmetic Act, (May 18, 2023), Washington State - The legislation, which bans PFAS, lead, phthalates and formaldehyde-releasing agents addresses more chemicals of concern than any other state or federal law. Washington’s action builds on other state laws in six states, California, New York, Maryland, Minnesota, Maine and Colorado, which have also stepped up the regulation of substances used in cosmetics and personal care products.

"Many cosmetics contain toxic chemicals and that those with the highest concentrations are often marketed to women of colour."

EPA Releases Report Showing Health Impacts of Climate Change on Children in the United States, (April 25, 2023). WASHINGTON, DC — The signs of climate change are all around us, and children are uniquely vulnerable to its impacts. Climate change-related impacts in childhood can have lifelong consequences due to effects on learning, physical health, and housing security. A new national-scale, multi-sector EPA report showcases some of the ways children are especially vulnerable to a variety of health effects from climate change due to physical, cognitive, behavioral, and social factors.

EPA Takes Action to Address Risk from Chlorpyrifos and Protect Children’s Health, (August 18, 2021) WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food to better protect human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers.

evidence on neurodevelopmental effects in fetuses and children resulting from chlorpyrifos exposure as reported in epidemiological studies, particularly the results from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) study on pregnant women which reported an association between fetal cord blood levels of chlorpyrifos and neurodevelopmental outcomes...

Read Regulation and the Center's Research Impact

New York Governor Cuomo signs the Child Safe Products Act, (February 2020)  a law which will require manufacturers to disclose chemicals used in children's products. Our community partner, WE ACT cited the Center’s research in advocating for the adoption of this law.

New York State banned use of chlorpyrifos, (October 2019 ) California banned its use in December 2019 and Corteva Agriscience (formerly Agriculture Division of DowDupont™) announced it will stop making chlorpyrifos in February 2020. The Center’s research on the harmful effects of chlorpyrifos exposure has been impactful in bringing about legislative changes.

Consumer Product Safety Commission bans organohalogen flame retardants as a class, (September 2017 ) The CPSC  bans the use of any non-polymeric organohalogen flame retardants used in children’s products, upholstered residential furniture, mattresses, and external casings of electronic device. The Center's findings and Dr. Herbstman's testimony on flame retardents were instrumental in this ban. 

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, (2016)  is the first major update to environmental legislation in two decades, overhauling the process for regulating toxic chemicals, allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to ban substances like asbestos, and limiting the secrecy around those chemicals after 10 years. Championed by Senators Lautenberg, Gillibrand, and Schumer, the Act would require companies to prove the safety of many types of chemicals before putting them in consumer products.  Dr. Frederica Perera, Director of the Center has testified in congress and to other policymakers, and worked with dozens of other media outlets around the world to build public awareness on her groundbreaking work, helping make chemical reform a national priority.

2011 - 2005

Flame Retardants

New York State law to ban the use of chlorinated TRIS flame retardant, (2011) TRIS-Free Children and Babies Act On August 1, 2011, the Governor signed into law a ban on the use of the flame retardant tris (2- chloroethyl) phosphate (TRIS) in products intended for use by children under the age of 3 years (including baby products, toys, car seats, nursing pillows, crib mattresses, and strollers). Effective December 1, 2013, the law prohibits any person or corporation from selling or offering to sell such products. Over the years, Dr. Julie Herbstman has testified at U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, The New York State Assembly, Alaska State Senate Health and Social Services Committee Concerning Senate Bill 27-An Act Relating to flame retardants and at other legislative hearings.

BPA Free

NY State law to ban BPA, (2010) from children’s products passed Bisphenol A-Free Children and Babies Act In 2010, the New York legislature enacted a ban on the use of BPA in child care products, defined as pacifiers and unfilled beverage containers to be used by children under three years old for the consumption of liquids. Effective December 1, 2010, the law prohibits the sale or offer for sale of any BPA-containing child care product intended for use by children three years of age or younger. Additionally, the Commissioner may authorize labeling of products not containing BPA as "Bisphenol A Free" or "BPA-Free.” On October 26, 2010, Dr. Perera testified at the Senate Field Hearing on Toxic Chemicals and Children’s Health. 

Pesticides & Integrated Pest Management

NYC Safe Housing Act by the New York City Council, (2007 ) made remediation requirements more stringent to prevent asthma triggers including mold conditions and pest infestation. The Center’s community-based intervention in public housing brought integrated pest management to the forefront spearheading the passing of the law. It also helped tenants and advocates improve conditions in rental housing.

Local Law 37- NYC City Council mandates "Integrated Pest Management" (IPM) (2005 )  control in all New York City owned buildings. Instead of using common sprays, emphasis is placed on the source of pest infestation through repairs of leaks and holes use of sticky traps, bait stations, gels and frequent household cleaning.  According Mayor Bloomberg, “The Center’s research about the exposure of pregnant women and newborns to pesticides motivated Local Law 37 and put New York at the forefront of safer pest control methods in the United States.”


Anti-Smoking legislation in New York City- Many years of secondhand smoke research helped embark one of the strongest anti-smoking laws in the nation.

  •  New York City bans smoking in parks, on beaches, and other outdoor areas (2011) increasing prevention of secondhand smoke in New York.
  •  New York City’s anti-smoking laws included bars and restaurants, (2003) reducing exposure to secondhand smoke to millions.

Fossil Fuel

New York City #6 Heating Oil Phase-Out, (2011 ) Effective May 23rd 2011 no new boiler and burner installations burning No. 4 or 6 oil will be permitted in NYC. However in-kind replacement of No. 4 oil burners will be approved. Effective July 1st 2012 existing boiler and burner installations burning No. 6 oil must convert to No. 2 or 4 oil or natural gas before their next triennial renewal of the Certificate of Operation. All boiler and burner installations must convert to No. 2 oil and/or natural gas by January 1st 2030 or when replaced whichever is sooner.

New York City’s Local Law 77,  (2006 ) which mandated that all large vehicles convert from dirty to ultra-low sulfur diesel. Those vehicles now emit 95 percent less tail pipe pollution. The Center’s findings influenced clean air laws at the federal, state and local level. Findings on the harmful impact of diesel soot helped pass the legislation.