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Seventh Generation and 3,000 Business Partners Call on Congress to Reform Chemical Safety Laws

Seventh Generation, the nation's leading brand of non-toxic and renewable bio-based household, baby and personal care solutions, called on Congress last week to strengthen the country's outdated chemical policy.

Seventh Generation, the nation's leading brand of non-toxic and renewable bio-based household, baby and personal care solutions, called on Congress last week to strengthen the country's outdated chemical policy.

Seventh Generation, along with the American Sustainable Business Council, are founding members of Companies for Safer Chemicals, a group of 3,000 leading consumer brands joining together to press Congress to modernize the nation's ineffective chemical safety laws. Strong lobbying by other industry groups has given policymakers the impression that businesses support weak legislation. Companies for Safer Chemicals is making a business argument for strong reforms that support the industry innovating safer and cleaner products.

"When Members of Congress talk about regulating industry, too often they forget about small and medium sized businesses that have embraced good business practices. Seventh Generation stands as proof that cost-effective products that not only meet consumer demands, but are increasingly demanded by consumers, can be formulated and manufactured without chemicals of concern," said Ashley Orgain, Seventh Generation's manager of mission advocacy and outreach at a Senate press conference last Tuesday.

Seventh Generation and the coalition have reservations about the current version of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (FLCSA). As the debate with FLCSA proceeds, Seventh Generation along with a coalition of business partners, allies and the environmental health community called for the following limited improvements to FLCSA:

  • PreemptionThe coalition believes that states should be preempted from regulating a dangerous chemical until it acts on regulating that chemical. Experience has shown that chemical manufacturers have shown no reluctance to pursue dilatory legal or legislative remedies to fight adverse safety determinations; they would continue to do so if the EPA designated a lucrative chemical "high priority." Waiting for years for those determinations to be litigated would leave a serious regulatory vacuum -- one that states could fill by acting to protect the public. Likewise, the coalition saw no reason that states should be prohibited from co-enforcing federal safety standards.

  • "Low Priority" LoopholeUnder the bill, chemicals that are determined by the EPA to be "Low Priority" must be "likely to meet" a safety standard without a new assessment, and they are then considered safe ad infinitum. The coalition believes that "likely to meet" is an ambiguous term that will lead to regulatory confusion and, inevitably, litigation while the determination is being made. However, the bill notably prohibits legal challenges after the determination is made, meaning that chemical manufacturers have an incentive to pursue the "low priority" designation.

  • Burdens on EPA's Regulation of Consumer ProductsAfter the EPA makes a determination that a chemical is unsafe, it would have to conduct a time-consuming cost-benefit analysis of the "quantifiable and nonquantifiable" costs of each proposed regulatory action and possible alternatives. Single chemicals may be used in hundreds of products; the coalition believes the EPA should not have to conduct a separate assessment of each product containing that chemical. Once the EPA makes its unsafe determination, the EPA should have the flexibility to quickly act to protect consumers on all products containing that chemical.

Seventh Generation and their coalition argued that businesses would benefit from these improvements through reduced costs and risks associated with managing chemicals in products and across supply chains; lowered expenses from chemically-induced illness and enhanced productivity among employees; improved transparency and communication throughout the supply chain, leading to increased confidence for downstream users; help identifying chemicals of high concern to human health or the environment so they can be removed from the supply chain; and increased trust among consumers, employees, communities, and investors.

The coalition hopes that cooperation with members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to address these changes to the current iteration of FLCSA will best protect the public from toxic chemicals.

In other chemical policy news, this month a controversial Free Trade Agreement was negotiated to introduce previously banned US cosmetics containing toxic chemicals back into the EU. Additionally, last October several large chemical companies published a guide designed to help chemical industry customers and stakeholders make more sustainable choices and Clorox released a mobile app explaining all of the chemicals on their ingredient list.