Coming Clean believes fundamental reform to current chemical laws is necessary to protect children, workers, communities, and the environment. We strive to shift market and government actions to protect health and the natural systems that support us. As a priority, we push to phase out the most dangerous chemicals, develop safer alternatives, protect high-risk communities, and ensure that those responsible for creating hazardous chemicals bear the full costs of correcting damages to our health and the environment.
By designing new, safer chemicals, products, and production systems we will protect people’s health and create healthy, sustainable jobs. Some leading companies are already on this path. They are creating safe products and new jobs by using clean, innovative technologies. But transforming entire markets will require policy change. A first step to creating a safe and healthy global environment is a major reform of our nation’s chemicals policy. Any reform must:
In the area of Louisville, Kentucky, known as “Rubbertown,” 11 industrial facilities release millions of pounds per year of toxic air emissions. The surrounding community is predominantly African-American. In May 2004, Louisville grassroots environmental justice groups hosted a meeting of organizations and individuals whose common goal is to pass government policies that protect human health and the environment from exposure to unnecessary harmful chemicals. The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals was named to honor this city and all the communities across the country and around the world committed to ending harm from toxic chemical contamination.
The Charter is comprised of six background papers that describe the six key principles necessary to regulate chemicals and shift the economy to safer products and clean production. Putting these six principles into good government policy protects the health of people and their communities, gives businesses and consumers the information they need to make good choices about chemicals, and provides incentives for a market shift to green chemistry that the world economy is demanding.
We encourage you to use the Charter for Safer Chemicals and endorse the principles. The following are some practical applications of the Charter. These activities show how broadly the document can be applied and the great need for continued input from environmental justice and health groups.
We must ensure that the principles of the Louisville Charter are at the forefront of efforts to reform chemical policy, and that new laws and regulations protect everyone — including the most vulnerable communities and populations.
Key principles of the Charter have already had great success in certain states. For example, in Massachusetts, the Toxic Use Reduction Act requires that companies assess their options to reduce or eliminate certain toxic chemicals, through measures including material substitution and product reformulation (key tenets in the Charter). In 10 years, these companies reduced their use of toxic chemicals by 40%, by-product waste by 58% and toxic emissions by 80%. A cost benefit analysis shows these companies saved $14 million over the same period.
In conjunction with our work to pass strong chemical policies, many groups are working to educate businesses and consumers about how to choose safer chemicals and products. They are also advocating for companies to implement health-protective chemical policies, like those outlined in the Charter for Safer Chemicals. For more information about these market campaigns, see our companion website, www.SafeMarkets.org.
The Charter for Safer Chemicals provides a common set of principles that manufacturers can endorse to make decisions about which chemicals they use and release, and how they interact with workers and the public, particularly their immediate neighbors. Leading brands in the electronics industry, the health care sector, and others are phasing out toxic chemicals and implementing other principles from the Charter. They are collaborating with NGOs and leaders in government and sustainability through groups like the BizNGO Working Group and the American Sustainable Business Council.