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July 20, 2009

Karen Angelo 978-447-1438, Jessica Schifano, 978-934-4591

Number of Chemical Policies Surge at State Level

Aim to protect public health while promoting a green economy

Lowell, MA —Increased concerns about the build-up of chemicals in the environment and their potential health effects are reflected in the rising number of state policies, according to an analysis conducted by the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

The new paper entitled, “State Leadership in Formulating and Reforming Chemicals Policy: Actions Taken and Lessons Learned,” finds that more states are introducing restrictions for single chemicals, but with a trend towards more comprehensive chemical reforms, at a quicker pace than ever before.

“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,” says Jessica Schifano, report author and Policy Analyst at the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “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.”

Number of BPA bills jumps to 90

For example, bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely used in consumer and baby plastic products that is linked to fertility defects in laboratory studies, has had the largest increase—from one bill introduced in 2006 to 90 bills introduced within the last three years. To date, two states, one county, and two cities have enacted policies that restrict the use of this chemical.

More states than ever introducing chemical policies

The states that have typically led chemical policy reform efforts include Maine, Washington, Connecticut, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Michigan. A number of new players, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Montana, have also proposed chemicals policy reforms ranging from bans on individual chemicals like lead and phthalates to broader reforms requiring data collection, identification, and prioritization of chemicals of concern in children’s products.

From regulating emissions to everyday products

A major finding of the analysis is that states are moving from regulating emissions of chemicals from factories to placing requirements on products themselves. Many states are moving towards broader approaches that encourage innovation, such as providing business incentives to encourage green chemistry and develop and use safer alternatives to problem chemicals.

Trend moving from single chemical bans to comprehensive efforts

There are also efforts in several states that create frameworks for the rapid identification, prioritization, and substitution of chemicals of concern. These comprehensive efforts have risen from zero bills in 2006 to 42 bills introduced in seventeen states from 2007-2009. To date, six states have enacted this type of legislation.

“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,” says Joel Tickner, Associate Professor and Director of the Chemicals Policy and Science Initiative of the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “Even though some action is in the works at the federal level, the proposals are lagging behind what some states are doing.”

Database of 900 policies available online

In October 2008, the Lowell Center launched the State Chemicals Policy Database, a tool for legislators, policy makers, researchers and advocates to examine policy efforts at the state and local level. The database currently houses more than 900 state and local legislative and executive branch policies—proposed, enacted, failed—from all 50 states from 1990 to the present.