Skip to Navigation
Skip to Content

Support PSR!

Your membership supports PSR's work to reduce global warming, eliminate toxics in our environment and abolish nuclear weapons. YOU make our work possible. Thank you.

Donate Now »

Take Action

Tell the EPA: don't delay the proposed rule to capture leaking methane gas. Our health and the health of the climate cannot wait!

Green chemistry: the prevention component of real TSCA reform

Posted by Molly Rauch, MPH on April 13, 2010

PSR is a proud partner in the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, which is working to pass smart federal policies to protect us from toxic chemicals. The SCHF coalition has developed a campaign platform that explains the nine components of sound and comprehensive chemicals policy. One of them addresses green chemistry:

“There should be national support for basic and applied research into green chemistry and engineering, and policy should favor chemicals and products that are shown to be benign over those with potential health hazards.” – Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families 

This part of the campaign platform is on my mind because I attended a Congressional briefing today, in which the American Chemical Society brought together industry scientists and policy experts to discuss green chemistry. From the title of the briefing – “Advancing Sustainability: Safer Alternatives to Products and Processes” – you might not know that every panelist was going to discuss the need to reform the Toxics Substances Control Act, something that EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has said is one of her priorities. But every panelist did indeed discuss TSCA, from Anne Wallin, director of Sustainable Chemistry for the Dow Chemical Company, to John Frazier, director of Considered Chemistry for Nike.

Green chemistry is an approach to chemical engineering and manufacture that seeks to address sustainability and toxicity through careful design of chemical processes. It requires thinking about a chemical through its entire life cycle, not just about its manufacture, from sourcing the feedstock to its use and disposal. What I like about this approach is its emphasis on prevention. (After all, that is one of the fundamental pillars of public health.) Creating incentives for safer alternatives on a federal level could transform our nation’s chemical policy landscape from one of defense – constantly trying to restrict the dangerous chemicals already in commerce – to one of innovation, in which federal policy incubates a new chemical paradigm.

Also presenting at the briefing today was Ansje Miller, policy director for the Center for Environmental Health in California. She spoke about the basis on which consumers make purchasing decisions. As she so clearly explained it, consumers buy things based on information about function, price, and performance. Most people assume that if a product is available on the market, it has already passed a safety test of some kind. If it’s in the store, or readily available to buy, we can assume it’s relatively safe.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. This is one of the failings of TSCA: the market is flooded with products and substances which have not been tested for chemical toxicity. And as Ms. Miller pointed out, the “consumers” who purchase products are not just the families in the neighborhood hardware store. They are children, cosmetics users, communities next to factories and other waste streams, workers, and even big companies such as WalMart and Kaiser Permanente. Such companies are huge consumers, and even they do not have sufficient information about the potential hazards in products of interest.

One way to change that is to make health data on chemical more readily available. But what if we changed that by ensuring that chemical manufacturers didn’t produce toxic products in the first place?

Please ask the EPA to support real TSCA reform today.


Leave your comment

Enter this word: Change

Action Alerts

  • Tell the EPA: Don't delay methane protections

    Tell the EPA: don't delay the proposed rule to capture leaking methane gas. Our health and the health of the climate cannot wait!

  • Tell Congress—defend the Clean Air Act against Big Oil!

    President Trump, his new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, and some in Congress are attempting to block or weaken clean air and climate protections like the Clean Power Plan. Tell your member of Congress to support full implementation of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Power Plan.

More action alerts»


  • Video: Fracking - Too Dirty, Too Dangerous

    Former executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Catherine Thomasson, MD, presents findings from PSR's report "Too Dirty, Too Dangerous: Why Health Professionals Reject Natural Gas". It is based on summaries of recent medical and scientific studies which clearly convey the health threats that accompany use of methane as a fuel. Read more »

  • Webinar: The Fight for Solar

    Solar energy is one of our best hopes for a clean energy future – yet some utility companies are trying to stifle the spread of rooftop solar. Learn more about the fight for rooftop ("distributed") solar. Read more »

  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Fact Sheet

    RGGI has significantly reduced air pollution from fossil fuel power plants, improving the health of people living in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. Read more »

In the Spotlight

  • November 30, 2016
    Eating for Climate and Health
    PSR's new PowerPoint presentation on how climate change impacts food production, and agriculture's contribution to climate change.