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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The role of chemical policy in improving supply chain knowledge and product safety

  • Author(s): Scruggs, Caroline E
  • Ortolano, Leonard
  • Schwarzman, Megan R
  • Wilson, Michael P
  • et al.

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Although the US government has made important improvements in chemical management since the 1970s, these advances have not kept pace with scientific knowledge about chemical hazards. While US federal chemical policy reform is being debated for the first time since 1976, some US businesses have voluntarily sought to improve their knowledge of chemical hazards in their supply chains, and several US states, the European Union, China, and other countries have moved forward with chemical policy reforms. Until policy reforms occur in the USA, the US chemical market will continue to experience problems associated with poor information on hazardous chemicals in supply chains. These market conditions make it difficult for consumer product companies to identify hazards and create safer products. Results from interviews with consumer product company representatives demonstrate that challenges in obtaining chemical-related information exist across sectors, and information on chemical hazards and uses can be conflicting, protected by trade secrets, lost in supply chains, or nonexistent. Interview results illustrate how some consumer product companies are exceeding regulatory requirements by voluntarily restricting from their products chemicals that could harm human health or the environment. Understanding the motivations behind—and barriers to—these actions could inform efforts to modernize US chemicals policies in ways that promote effective chemical management in supply chains. Using examples from the European Union and some US states, we introduce policy suggestions that would increase knowledge, market transparency, and information flows regarding hazardous chemicals and their uses; these would support the efforts of companies to develop and market safer products.

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