Moving Toward a Green Chemical Future

The U.S. government’s current regulation of industrial chemicals is based on the presumption that these chemicals are innocent until they are proven to harm human health or the environment. This presumption is startling, especially when you consider:     There are an estimated 80,000 chemicals registered for commercial use in the U.S.[1]     Only a very small percentage of these chemicals have been tested for safety to human health. [2]     An estimated 2,000 new chemicals are introduced each year, or an average of seven new chemicals each day. [3] To date, California has relied on the federal government’s failed regulatory system to protect its residents from industrial chemicals used in commerce. California has no regulatory framework for reviewing these chemicals prior to their introduction to the market and use in consumer products. Nor does the state have a comprehensive program for assessing the safety of those chemicals currently in use.


Environment California Research and Policy Center

Last year, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Linda Adams launched the Green Chemistry Initiative to develop a comprehensive approach for dealing with hazardous chemicals.

Environment California Research & Policy Center views the following principles as central to chemicals policy reform and, specifically, to the success of California’s Green Chemistry Initiative:

1.  Decisions affecting human health and the environment should be based on the intrinsic hazards of a chemical and a new approach to toxicity testing.

2.  Chemical manufacturers should prove their products are safe.

3.  Hazardous chemicals and chemicals with inadequate safety data should be phased out. 

4. Industry should bear the costs associated with their chemical production or use. 

5. Safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals should be required. 

6.  The public has a right to know about chemicals in use and participate in decisions affecting the impact of these chemicals on their communities.

[1] California Policy Research Center, University of California, Green Chemistry in California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and Innovation, 2006.

[2] Environmental Defense Fund, Toxic Ignorance: The Continuing Absence of Basic Health Testing for Top-Selling Chemicals in the United States, 1997.

[3] Environmental Working Group, Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns, July 2005.