-15- Chemicals Policy & Science Initiative - What Is Chemicals Policy?
Chemicals Policy & Science Initiative LCSP
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Chemicals policy is a broad term, which encompasses a large number of elements, including:

  • Regulatory and voluntary measures, such as those that: obtain information on the properties and uses of chemicals substances; ensure information is transmitted to users of the chemicals; restrict certain chemicals or uses; or stimulate substitution of problem substances.
  • Policies within companies for determining what chemicals are used, and how they are used.
  • Fiscal policies, such as taxes on certain substances and financial responsibility measures.
  • Educational and labeling initiatives.
  • Research, development, and technical support for safer chemicals and products.

The Chemicals Policy and Science Initiative promotes the idea of "comprehensive chemicals policy," a holistic approach that is integrated and prevention-oriented, ensuring protection of workers, communities, and consumer health while stimulating the development and use of non-hazardous and sustainable chemicals in production systems, materials, and products.

Comprehensive chemicals policies should advance movement towards the Generational Goal outlined at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. The Generational Goal states that nations should "Renew the commitment, aiming to achieve, by 2020, that chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment, which says that threats posed by toxic chemicals should be eliminated within one generation."

Six general features of comprehensive chemicals policies have been identified:

  • They take a comprehensive and integrated approach to all chemicals, including toxic and hazardous substances as well as substances that are relatively benign. They go beyond "toxics policies" that focus on chemical-by-chemical or media-by-media restrictions.
  • They establish processes that allow rapid chemical assessment, prioritization, and decision-making based on the inherent toxicity (hazards), uses, functions, and potential exposures through manufacturing, use, and disposal.
  • They are hazard rather than risk based. The intrinsic hazards of chemicals are used to identify and prioritize chemicals of higher and lower concern (for example a chemical that is carcinogenic is always carcinogenic) and define actions that should be taken (for example avoiding persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic substances). Considerations of use and potential exposures are used to further prioritize chemicals and their uses for
    actions and are useful in understanding potential concerns and trade-offs from one substance to another.
  • They ensure adequate data collection and dissemination providing open access to information. The validity of science is only as good as the openness with which its results can be shared, reviewed, and evaluated.
  • They establish processes for transitioning chemical use from high hazard to low hazard substances. Alternatives assessment or substitution planning processes are used to identify priority uses of substances of higher concern and opportunities for application of safer alternatives.
  • They promote research and innovation.

Comprehensive chemicals policies may be used by governments or corporations. The newly adopted Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation in the European Union is an important example of a comprehensive chemicals policy. However, there are also an increasing number of firms that are instituting across-the-board chemicals policies that cover all of the substances in their production processes, or alternatively, all of the substances used in an industrial facility from feedstocks to toilet cleaners. Currently, chemicals policies can be found within:

  • Regulatory and voluntary (legislative and executive branch) measures, such as those that: obtain information on the properties and uses of chemical substances; ensure information is transmitted to users of the chemicals; restrict certain chemicals or uses; or stimulate substitution of problem substances. These measures may be promulgated in legislation (laws) which have been approved by a legislature, or executive orders which are declarations established by governors usually intended to direct or instruct the actions
    of executive agencies or government officials. Although executive orders are not laws, they have the same binding effect. However, they may be rescinded by a subsequent administration.
  • Company policies for determining what chemicals are used and how they are used.
  • Fiscal policies, such as taxes on certain substances and financial responsibility measures.
  • Educational and labeling initiatives.
  • Research, development, and technical support for safer chemicals products.

Note: The regulatory division between ‘New’ and ‘Existing’ chemicals does not exist for any scientific or risk-based reason. It is a general feature of regulatory systems that it is easier to put new requirements on something that is new (and hasn’t happened yet) - e.g. a chemical, or a new building - than it is to put requirement on something that is already in use.


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