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Posted: February 20, 2008

Options for states to reform chemicals policies: A resource guide

(Nanowerk News) The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at UMass Lowell released "Options for States to Reform Chemicals Policies: A Resource Guide" (pdf download, 1.4 MB), which illustrates a range of options for states to revamp chemicals management policies in the absence of federal reform.
Module 7 of the 244-page guide, authored by Steffen Foss Hansen and David Rejeski, deals with nanotechnology: Applying the Chemical Policy Options to Emerging Technologies and Materials: Adaptations and Challenges.
The report reveals that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA), the 30-year-old federal law that regulates industrial manufacturing and use of chemicals, has proved ineffective in ensuring adequate toxicity and exposure information on chemicals or restricting problem chemicals. It has also failed to spark innovation of safer chemicals and products.
“The public may not even be aware that basic toxicity information is not required for thousands of chemicals in commerce,” said Joel Tickner, assistant professor at UMass Lowell. “But change is on the horizon because many people are anxious about getting hazardous substances out of their homes and communities and many governments, companies and consumers are demanding safer products. State policies can make a difference and could someday be upheld as notable examples for a federal model.”
Chemical Policy Activity at the State Level
While advocates and policy makers in many states, including Washington, Maine, California, Oregon, Michigan and Massachusetts, are moving forward with chemical policy reform efforts, this report will help states think more broadly about chemical policy structures rather than focus on one chemical at a time.
More than 20 states, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Connecticut, have passed legislation to phase out the use of mercury in various consumer products. In 2003, California passed a bill that prohibits the use of two common flame-retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) in commercial products. Several additional states have since enacted laws phasing out their use. California has passed legislation restricting phthalates and many states have proposed policies for bisphenol-A and phthalates in children’s products.
The practical “how to” guide available at www.sustainableproduction.org written by University of Massachusetts Lowell faculty, researchers and national experts, provides detailed information as well as examples on the pros and cons of regulatory and non regulatory options. Topics include obtaining information on the safety and use of chemicals, ensuring the sharing of information through supply chains, facilitating the rapid prioritization and decision-making on chemicals, supporting substitution of chemicals of higher concern, creating incentives for safer chemicals and products, and administering chemicals management programs.
UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health. UML offers its 11,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.
The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at UMass Lowell uses rigorous science, collaborative research, and innovative strategies to promote communities, workplaces, and products that are healthy, humane, and respectful of natural systems. The Center is composed of faculty, staff, and graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who work collaboratively with citizen groups, workers, businesses, institutions, and government agencies to build healthy work environments, thriving communities, and viable businesses that support a more sustainable world.
Source: UMass Lowell