States Stepping Up to Protect the Public from Chemicals

July 31, 2009

Not only are the numbers of policy actions at the state level increasing to address chemicals, but the policies are also promoting a green economy. A new report by the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell documents the shift in state policies dealing with chemicals. Responding to increased concerns about the build-up of chemicals in the environment and their potential health effects that are not being addressed at the federal level, states are stepping up to protect public health from chemicals.

The report is entitled, "State Leadership in Formulating and Reforming Chemicals Policy: Actions Taken and Lessons Learned." It determines that more states are introducing restrictions for single chemicals and promoting comprehensive chemical reforms.

Jessica Schifano, a report author and Policy Analyst at the Lowell Center, said, "We've seen a huge increase in the number of bills introduced within the last few years, especially in states that in the past had been relatively quiet. A range of factors contribute to this trend, from new policies in Europe, to consumer pressure and demands from large manufacturers and retailers for safer products."

The Lowell Center describes itself as using "rigorous science, collaborative research and innovative strategies to promote communities, workplaces, and products that are healthy, humane, and respectful of natural systems."

In October 2008, the Center launched the "State Chemicals Policy Database," which provides information about policy efforts at the state and local level. The database contains information about proposed, enacted and failed state and local legislative and executive branch policies created between 1990 and the present. More than 900 efforts are documented from all 50 states.

For example, the chemical bisphenol A is widely used in consumer and baby plastic products and is linked to fertility defects in laboratory studies. The largest increase in state action is about bisphenol A where in 2006, one bill was introduced. Since then, 90 bills have been introduced to restrict its use.

The analysis shows that states are moving from regulating chemical emissions from factories to placing requirements on products themselves. Many states are moving towards broader approaches that encourage innovation, such as developing and using safer alternatives to problem chemicals and providing business incentives to encourage green chemistry.

Joel Tickner, Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Sustainability and Project Director of the Chemicals Policy and Science Initiative of the Lowell Center, said, "The increase in the number of policies combined with the shift from single chemical bans to broader approaches demonstrates the failure of federal leadership in chemicals management and the critical need for a major overhaul of the 30-year old federal Toxics Substances Control Act. Even though some action is in the works at the federal level, the proposals are lagging behind what some states are doing."

You can find the full report at:

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