09 March 2007 17:29 [Source: ICIS news]
BALTIMORE, Maryland (?xml:namespace>
Joe Acker, president of the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (Socma), said he envisions a day in the not-too-distant future when every manufactured product - processed foods, computers, recreational equipment, clothing - will carry a label denoting that item’s environmental footprint.
“It may be just a number, a score that reflects all the environmental factors that went into the production of that item, including resources, toxicity level, energy use, biodegradability, lots of things,” Acker said.
“I see a day in maybe 20 years when consumers will consult that environmental footprint number on a product just as many consumers now look at the nutrition label on food products and that footprint will be a factor in their purchase decision,” he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Socma-sponsored GlobalChem regulatory conference, Acker said the environmental footprint label will be the result of growing consumer demand for information about the direct impact of substances on their health.
“Twenty or thirty years ago environmental concern was focused on the air, soil and waterways,” he noted. “But today, with biomonitoring becoming increasingly popular, the environmental focus increasingly will include impact on our bodies.”
Biomonitoring is the measure of chemicals in human blood, urine, breast milk and other tissues.
Acker said campaigns by major retailers such as Wal-Mart to select or deselect products based on their environmental impact is a symptom of the increasing public demand for knowledge about the effect of products they buy on the world around them and in their own bodies.
So too, he said, is the European Union’s (EU) new programme for registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach) a symptom, rather than the cause, of growing popular interest in developed nations in product safety.
The measure and labelling of products’ environmental footprints, Acker said, will quickly become a competitive issue. He said the chemicals industry will be challenged to develop compounds and substances that will give their customers an environmental edge in producing end-user products with a lower footprint number.
Co-sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, the three-day GlobalChem conference concludes on Friday.
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