Advocating for Chemical Safety and Sustainability
Creating an Non-Toxic World for Workers, Families, and all Living Things
The ASBN’s Safer Chemicals initiative develops principles and promotes policies for more robust chemical safety in workplaces, homes, communities, and the natural environment. This work is based on fully informed assessments of synthetic chemical exposure hazards—whether the risk of harm in each case is broadly acceptable or demands safer alternatives.
This effort has several interconnected components:
The Sustainable Chemicals Working Group seeks to improve chemical sustainability, which the United Nations defines as meeting the needs of today without diminishing the ability of future generations to meet their own. This demands that chemicals be produced and used in ways that allow for recovery and reuse, harmless biodegradation, and/or end-of-life deployment as nutrients for the next cycle of production.
The Environmental Justice Working Group endeavors to end the disproportional adverse health and property impacts of chemical manufacturing facilities on the low-wealth and BIPOC communities in which they have been historically situated and to permit meaningful community input into facility siting, emissions control, and economic benefit decisions.
The Ingredients Disclosure Working Group is addressing the chemical industry’s lack of transparency from consumer product labeling to supply chain disclosure issues in order to ensure that both consumers and manufacturers know exactly what is in the products and materials they use, and can assess their safety accordingly. This working group actively lobbies at state and federal levels for full chemical ingredients disclosures and was part of the coalition that passed the California Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017, the first law in the US to require this disclosure. The group also worked with coalition partners to pass the Federal Safer Cosmetics Act (2023) and the California Cosmetic Products Flavor and Fragrance Act (2021). Currently, it is engaged in advocating for laws further limiting the use of chronically toxic substances in consumer products.
In partnership with Clean Production Action’s BizNGO Project, the Safer Chemicals Working Group seeks to reduce the health impacts chemicals are having on human health and the environment. Progress is based on four principles: 1) know and disclose; 2) assess and avoid hazards; 3) commit to continuous improvement; and 4) support public policy initiatives and standards that advance the first three principles. This group has developed policies governing poly- and per-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), and successfully advocated at both state and federal levels for PFAS regulations. The group also contributed to 2016’s Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, a badly needed revision of the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act and created the Childhood Cancer Prevention Initiative, a collaborative effort to improve children’s health by sharing evidence and resources about the impact of toxic chemicals on children; removing toxic chemicals from products and environments to which they’re exposed; and encouraging legislators to implement responsible state and federal policies.
The work of the Safe and Sustainable Chemicals Group relies on help from ASBN member companies and a network of valued partners, including:
- Breast Cancer Prevention Partners
- BlueGreen Alliance
- Cancer-Free Economy Network
- Change Chemistry (formerly the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council)
- Clean Production Action – BizNGO Project
- Coming Clean
The Childhood Cancer Prevention Initiative is a growing cross-sector collaboration that includes:
- Cancer-Free Economy Network
- Center for Environmental Health
- Children’s Environmental Health Network
- Clean & Healthy New York
- Clean Production Action
- Lowell Center for Sustainable Production
- Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center
Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States.
And while fewer children are dying of cancer, the rate of children being diagnosed with cancer has actually increased by 34% since 1975. Costing $1.9 Billion a year due to hospitalizations.
Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States?
While it is true that fewer children are dying of cancer than in the past, the rate of children being diagnosed with cancer has actually increased by 34% since 1975.
The Safer Choice program—formerly known as Design for the Environment—is the voluntary labeling program that epitomizes effective collaboration between the government and the private sector. It sends a signal to consumers that products certified under the program meet a higher, safer standard. Upending this safety approach would lead the program into analytical paralysis, creating time delays and cost inefficiencies. This does not make smart business sense. Please help preserve this safer chemicals program.
Cleaning product manufacturers do not have to label ingredients on their products, yet companies in other industries are used to labeling ingredients—and consumers expect it. We call for legislation requiring cleaning product manufacturers to fully disclose the ingredients in their products. Transparency in the marketplace is an essential business value, and will give consumers the information they need to make informed choices.
The Accurate Labels Act (S. 3019 and H.R. 6022) overly restricts disclosures to consumers and provides a poor and constrained definition of “sound science.” Fundamentally, the bill is aimed at preempting state transparency and labeling requirements. At a time when consumers are demanding more transparency about what is in the products they use in the workplace and in their homes, this bill aims to limit their access to this this information. Sign on to tell Congress that these bills are not what consumers want, and not what a transparent and vibrant marketplace should look like.
Leading businesses aim to capture emerging market opportunities by reformulating their products and catalyzing change in their supply chains. These opportunities abound in furnishings and materials used in homes, offices and other environments where people spend time (and invest money). In the “What’s It Made of?” initiative, ASBC is committed, along with its partner, the Sustainable Furnishings Council, to supporting businesses in improving their supply chains, and to helping consumers seeking more environmentally safe furnishings.
Responsible businesses believe ingredient transparency gives their employees and consumers the information they need to make safer, more informed choices about the products they work with and/or bring home to their families. Many of these businesses voluntarily disclose the ingredients in their cosmetics and salon products, while other manufacturers are allowed to keep potentially harmful ingredients a secret. Join other responsible businesses and demand disclosure of fragrance and flavor ingredients to ensure the public health protection of employees and consumers!
ASBC is proud of our support for a new federal bill passed by the Senate which will emphasize American jobs and manufacturing while also protecting human health and the environment by helping to realize the full innovation and market potential of sustainable chemistry technologies. The Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019 passed the Senate on Dec. 11, 2020 as part of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
Making the Business Case
These reports contain clear and compelling business and economic benefits exist for our policy positions. In fact, most of our policy positions include ones that have been painted by others as bad for business. These documents can be used to help educate policymakers and others about how policies based on sustainable principles can be good for all stakeholders, including the planet.