Why we need smart thinking about PR

When the European Chemicals Agency unveiled its top picks of chemicals of high concern to be dealt with most urgently under the EU’s Reach chemical regulation, long-established flame retardants were included. Elsewhere, a plethora of bans and restrictions on substances such as these, plus other plastic additives, are coming into force.

In the US, the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act restricted the use of phthalates in toys and other children’s products earlier this year. And even China, which has a reputation for lax environmental regulation, has introduced legislation that seems to be tougher than European equivalents.

The chemical industry tends to react against these restrictions, claiming they are based on unsound science. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that argument, this can undermine good public relations. The American Chemistry Council recently acknowledged that the

industry’s handling of the controversy about bisphenol A (BPA) in babies’ bottles could have been better.

Put “BPA” into Twitter, the online messaging service, and you’ll see a lot of messages from people claiming the industry is trying to stop regulators from protecting them. With tougher regulation of plastic additives a fact of life, the chemical sector must think carefully about getting a smart PR message out there.

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