Anti-chemical campaigns intensify in US states

08 April 2009 21:31  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--State-level legislative and market-driven attacks on chemicals and related products are growing rapidly and are increasingly difficult to contest, a leading industry authority said on Wednesday.

Josh Young, director of state affairs for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), told an industry conference that environmental and other interest groups are launching “relentless and comprehensive attacks” on chemicals and products in state legislatures, city councils and through pressure on major retailers.

“Typically, these campaigns will position the issue in terms of children and mothers’ health and focus on one or two products at a time,” Young told the 2009 Global Chemical Regulations Conference (GlobalChem).

He said activists will attack science-based arguments by industry as being biased or unreliable and characterise federal regulators as untrustworthy.

The campaigns frequently enlist local news media in characterising a targeted chemical as threatening the health of children, he said.  “It is hard to win over a state legislator, get him to do the scientifically correct thing, when his vote will be characterised as ‘anti-children’,” Young said.

He said emerging themes or targets for state-level activists this year include efforts toward legislative imposition of safer alternative substances or products and mandates for toxic use reduction.

Young said that there are already 11 bills pending in eight states to establish green chemistry mandates, 12 bills in 10 states on green cleaning products, and 47 bills in 21 states seeking to ban bisphenol-A (BPA) in consumer products.

“Last year there were only two or three bills seeking to ban BPA,” Young said, indicating the rapid growth of anti-chemical campaigns in 30 of the 50 US states.

“This is not going to stop,” Young said. “If you put ‘green’ in front of an issue or a bill, legislators just love it.”

He said it is particularly difficult to combat product substitution campaigns aimed at major retailers such as Wal-Mart and K-Mart, noting that Wal-Mart was quick to remove baby bottles from its inventory when public concern arose about the infant health impact of BPA.

“It is difficult because Wal-Mart is not obliged to look at the science behind an issue,” he said. “If Wal-Mart’s constituents - their customers - say they don’t want something in the store, it’s gone.”

He said chemical companies and industry advocates can contest such legislative and market campaigns by recruiting their value chain customers to testify at hearings and by highlighting the potentially broad economic impact and job losses that would result from knee-jerk product or chemical bans.

“However, we must never abandon the science argument,” Young said.

Cosponsored by the ACC and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), the three-day GlobalChem conference concludes on Wednesday.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Joe Kamalick
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