Blueprint for Chemicals Policy Reform Highlighted in New Report

April 3, 2007


Meg Little,, 202-572-3387

(Washington, DC – April 4, 2007) – Environmental Defense, in cooperation with Pollution Probe in Canada, released today the first-ever study comparing the European Union’s new REACH regulation with industrial chemicals policies in the U.S. and Canada. The report, titled Not That Innocent: A Comparative Analysis of Canadian, European Union, and United States Policies on Industrial Chemicals, offers a blueprint for addressing both long-standing deficiencies and newly emerging concerns over how government manages the potential risks of industrial chemicals.

Written by Senior Health Program Scientist, Richard A. Denison, Ph.D., the 140-page report identifies “best practices” from among the policies in the three jurisdictions that most effectively ensure protection of human health and the environment.

For the last several decades, government policies have granted the tens of thousands of industrial chemicals already in commerce a strong “presumption of innocence,” with companies largely free to produce and use such chemicals as they’ve seen fit in the absence of compelling evidence of harm.

“Mounting evidence shows that many of these chemicals are actually not that innocent,” said Denison. “Existing policies have allowed chemicals to accumulate in the environment and in the bodies of virtually all people on earth—while failing to deliver the information needed to determine what risks they pose.”

One profound consequence of current policies is that government, the public and often companies themselves know very little about the potential risks of most such chemicals, and companies have little or no incentive to develop better information.

“The lack of good information not only means we don’t know which chemicals may pose risks,” Denison noted. “We also fail to learn which ones pose little or no risk, and hence might serve as viable substitutes.”

The study released today describes a paradigm shift beginning to take place in all three jurisdictions toward policies that are knowledge-driven and place more of the burden of providing and acting on that information on those who stand to profit financially from the production and use of chemicals. “Companies that make and use chemicals are arguably in the best position to internalize information about risk and use it from the outset to design out risk from their products,” said Denison.

Read the report here.