Chemical Policy Reform

Did you know that there are approximately 80,000 chemicals in commercial use but that in the U.S. little toxicity information is required to bring a chemical or product containing chemicals to market? In fact, regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency can only act to ban or limit a chemical's use after a severehealth or environmental problem manifests itself.

As a result our household cleaners, garden chemicals and pesticides, personal care products, computers, clothes, food, and even our beds may contain chemicals about which we have little safety information. While not all chemicals are harmful and many provide important benefits, there is a growing body of evidence linking chemical exposures over time to health impacts such as cancer, reproductive problems, neurological disorders, and respiratory disease.

The good news is that manufacturing products with less toxic materials and promoting the development of "green chemistry" can not only protect our communities, workers, and ecosystems, but can actually save businesses money, increase efficiency, reduce liability, and give them a competitive advantage as other parts of the world regulate the use of toxic materials. Green Chemistry is the design, manufacture, and use of non-toxic chemical products, while reducing waste, creating sustainable businesses and jobs, and using less energy.

Among our many efforts to reduce toxic chemical use in California, Clean Water Fund's California staff partnered with the Lowell Center for Sustainable Development at the University of Massachusetts in 2006 to launch our Safer Jobs and Sustainable Economy through Green Chemistry Project. We began by researching the concerns and needs of various constituencies, including representatives from industry, government (state and local), public interest groups, the investment sector, academia, and labor in moving toward a green chemistry based economy, in order to set the stage for open and effective communication on the issue. The results have been outlined in a report summarizing the various perspectives and have provided us with important guidance on how to frame both public discussion on the future of chemical use and management in our state.