While many federal regulatory initiatives exist, states have traditionally been the innovators in environmental and health policy in the United States. Currently, substances such as lead and mercury are being restricted, as well as some flame retardants, phthalates, and chemicals in everyday products. Many state and local governments are undertaking a variety of different policy efforts and are serving as vital laboratories for shaping sustainable chemicals policy.
For an accounting of over 1000 state and local legislative and executive branch policies, visit CPSI's searchable database, now hosted and updated by the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse.
CPSI’s 2009-2010 State Legislative Sessions Summary provides an update on the legislation proposed and enacted during the 2009-2010 legislative session.
Below are highlights of some key state and local chemicals policies.
California Green Chemistry Initiative
In 2007 the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, part of the California Department of Environmental Protection, began a Green Chemistry Initiative, a partnership between government and industry. The mission of the Initiative is to work collaboratively to fill gaps in chemical safety information and promote the use of green chemistry to find alternatives to harmful chemicals currently in use. This program is modeled after the approach taken in the European Union, and focuses on renewable feedstocks, recycling elements used in production for reuse, and on eliminating waste altogether as opposed to finding an appropriate disposal method once waste has been generated. The Initiative has two phases: phase 1 took place in 2007 and resulted in collaborative brainstorming of ways to fill information gaps; while phase 2, an analysis of these options, is currently being worked on.
In 2008, California enacted two bills that moved the state on the path toward a comprehensive green chemistry program. A.B. 1879 establishes authority for the Department of Toxic Substances Control to create a process for identifying and prioritizing chemicals of concern and to create methods for analyzing alternatives to existing hazardous chemicals. S.B. 509 creates an online Toxics Information Clearinghouse, a web-based database, to increase consumer knowledge about the toxicity and hazards of thousands of chemicals used in California every day.
Maine: Act to Protect Children's Health and the Environment from Toxic Chemicals In Toys and Children's Products
Maine enacted the "Act to Protect Children's Health and the Environment from Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Children's Products" in April of 2008. The Act calls for the publication of a list of chemicals of high concern. The Act permits the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to designate a chemical of high concern as a priority chemical if the chemical meets certain criteria, at which time a manufacturer or distributor of a children's product that contains the priority chemical must provide certain information to the state. In addition, the Act includes language for an Interstate Clearinghouse to promote safer chemicals in consumer products. For more information on the implementation of this law, visit the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Massachusetts Toxic Use Reduction Act
Massachusetts passed the Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) in 1989 to promote the Massachusetts economy through clean production manufacturing. The Toxics Use Reduction Institute was established as part of the Act which assists Massachusetts firms with reducing and eliminating their need for toxics during production. TURA set the challenge of reducing the amount of toxic waste generated statewide by 50% by 1997 without limiting the ability of business to succeed. TURA has shown to be effective in meeting this challenge; since 1990 more than 1,000 firms have participated in toxic use reduction activities, many of them no longer needing assistance after eliminating the use of toxic substances all together.
In 2006 TURA was amended for the first time since it was enacted. These amendments focus on reducing the use of higher hazard chemicals, encourage business to improve their environmental performance, and make reporting more efficient. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection published a summary of the amendments.
Massachusetts Act for Providing Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals
Although this has not yet passed, An Act Providing for Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals would permit the annual designation of 1 to 5 higher hazard substances to be evaluated for the availability of safer alternatives. Following this evaluation, the chemical would be designated as a priority toxic substance, at which time a chemical action plan would be prepared. The Act would also require substitution of a safer alternative whenever it is determined that there are safer alternatives for specific uses of a priority toxic substance. The bill has the support of a broad coalition of labor, environmental, and public health groups known as the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow.
Michigan Green Chemistry Executive Directive
In 2006 Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed an Executive Directive mandating that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) coordinate a state-wide effort to increase economic development and prevent pollution through green chemistry initiatives. Specifically, the directive calls for increased research, promotion, and development of less-toxic or non-toxic chemical alternatives to hazardous chemicals currently in use. For more information on the implementation of this directive, visit the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Washington Children's Safe Products Act
The state of Washington passed the Children's Safe Products Act of 2008 which calls for the virtual elimination of phthalates, lead, and cadmium in children's products. Children's products includes cosmetics, jewelry, toys, and other products intended for or marketed to children under the age of 12. The Act also calls for the state to identify high priority chemicals that are of high concern to children found through biomonitoring to be within the human body, present in household dust, drinking water, or otherwise in the home environment by 2009. The Act requires manufacturers of products containing high priority chemicals to provide notice to the state. Children's products or product categories that may contain these chemicals will be identified. A report will be issued accordingly with policy options for addressing the presence of these chemicals in children's products. For more information on the implementation of this law, visit the Washington Department of Ecology.
Local Chemicals Policies
San Francisco Precautionary Principle
In 2003, San Francisco, CA enacted a Precautionary Principle Ordinance that required all officers, boards, commission, and department of the City and County to implement the Precautionary Principle in conducting the City and County’s affairs. The Precautionary Principle requires a thorough exploration and a careful analysis of a wide range of alternatives. Based on the best available science, the Precautionary Principle requires the selection of the alternative that presents the least potential threat to human health and the City’s natural systems. Public participation and an open and transparent decision making process are critical to finding and selecting alternatives. For more information on the implementation of this ordinance, visit the San Francisco Department of the Environment.
City of Portland, Oregon and Multnomah County Toxics Reduction Strategy
The Toxics Reduction Strategy, adopted by the City of Portland, OR and Multnomah County, OR in 2006, establishes a plan for minimizing the use of toxic substances of concern in government operations by using the Precautionary Principle. The Strategy promotes elimination of the governmental purchase, release and use of toxic substances that present potential negative health or environmental impacts through environmentally preferable purchasing, completion of a chemical inventory, and the replacement of toxic substances with the least-toxic alternatives.
Seattle, Washington Strategy for Reducing the Use of Hazardous Products
In 1995, the City of Seattle adopted a resolution requiring City Departments to begin a process of evaluating the elimination or reduction of products identified as being or containing a hazardous material through substitution, changing processes, or recycling.