The Problem: Gaps in Laws, Disclosure
The laws that are meant to protect Americans from harmful chemicals used in manufacturing and in our products are inadequate to protect human health and the environment. Roughly 80,000 chemicals are used in commerce in the U.S. Many of these are used as ingredients in consumer products that are available to the general public and many have adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Body burden studies show that certain chemicals are stored in our bodies and many chemicals are now being found in very remote wilderness areas of the country.
Gaps: Deficiencies in federal chemical regulations, primarily the US Toxic Substances Control Act, have been well-documented in governmental and academic analyses. These laws allow known chemical hazards to be used in products and processes.
Disclosure: There is no requirement that chemicals used in products and materials be disclosed to the public. The information that is publicly available is inadequate to assess the chemical hazards or to identify safer alternatives. A broader preventative approach is needed that makes public health and environmental protection the priority.
Product Stewardship Solutions
Product designers and manufacturers should take responsibility for minimizing the environmental and health impacts of their products. Where no alternatives to toxic components and ingredients exist, the producer should be responsible for assisting in the management of the product at the end of life. These product stewardship policies in combination with policies that restrict toxic chemicals and promote safer alternatives will result in safer products that are more sustainable and recyclable.
Chemical policy reform: Our nation’s chemical policies should be revised to:
- Restrict the use of certain hazardous and toxic chemicals and materials.
- Require that all chemical and material manufacturers evaluate and report the environmental and human health hazards of these chemicals and materials to a regulatory body for registration and approval or denial prior to production and sale.
- Require that producers disclose all chemicals used in their manufacturing processes and products.
- Require that producers provide clear and uniform environmental, health hazard and safety information to sellers, for all materials and products, which can then be provided to their customers in an audience-appropriate format.
- Promote, or are consistent with, the precautionary principle to protect health and the environment.
- Require the producer to be responsible, either physically or financially, for the end-of-life management of disposal products containing a toxic chemical.