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Downstream Users Change the Course of Chemicals Production
essay is in response to: How can innovations in technology and research reduce exposures to toxic chemicals?
from chemical manufacturers is the vast part of our economy that uses chemicals
by virtue of the products they purchase. They range from formulators to
component producers to manufacturers to retailers to health care institutions
to individual consumers. These are the “downstream users” that are changing the
course of chemicals production.
downstream users want to know the chemicals in their products, the human and
environmental health hazards of those chemicals and whether safer alternatives
are available to chemicals of high concern. In 2008, business and non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders created a visionary
roadmap to implementing a safer chemicals agenda: the BizNGO Guiding Principles
for Chemicals Policy.
The four BizNGO principles are:
- Know and disclose chemical ingredients in products.
- Assess and avoid hazards.
- Commit to continuous improvement.
- Support public policies and industry standards that advance the
first three principles.
40 organizations have endorsed the Guiding Principles, including Catholic
Healthcare West, Hewlett-Packard, Kaiser Permanente, Premier and Staples. In
2010, the following five downstream users released organizational profiles highlighting
how they are implementing the Guiding Principles.
Each of the these organizations
is translating its internal chemical management practices into support for
government chemicals policy initiatives. Catholic Healthcare West, for example,
- Creating a
minimum data set of all chemicals in commerce within the next five years.
- Taking immediate
action to reduce the use of PBTs (persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic
chemicals) and other chemicals of high concern.
- Ensuring that
new chemicals only come to market after full safety determinations.
- Promoting safer
As Bob Sussman, Senior Policy Counsel to the U.S.
EPA told attendees at the Business and NGO Forum for Safer Chemicals Policy
Reform, “Downstream users play an important role in the
government’s efforts to revise its policies related to chemical safety…. You
occupy a unique position at the end of the value chain, where the rubber meets
the road. Your voice is critical. We want to encourage you to stay in the game
and to help shape the end product”.
designing and purchasing products that use safer chemicals, as well as by supporting
government initiatives that will disseminate best chemical management practices
across the entire economy downstream users are making a difference in our
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