Chemistry plays an essential role in the products and technologies we use every day, from vital ingredients in thousands of consumer products to raw materials in manufacturing processes.
Perhaps due to this ubiquity, chemicals in products have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Product manufacturers, retailers, brands and others in the consumer products supply chain are facing pressure from activists and others to reduce or eliminate certain chemicals in the products they make and sell.
It’s important to know that the mere presence of a chemical in a product does not imply that adverse effects will result. Everything is made from chemistry – even us. Decades of scientific research have shown that numerous products of chemistry, both natural and synthetic, can be safely used in a variety of applications.
Yet recently, office supply company Staples launched a new chemicals management policy, which, among other things, includes a “chemicals of concern” list that seeks to find substitutes for some chemistries that have been used for many years in products sold by the store. And home improvement retailer Lowes just updated its chemicals management policy to phase out the sale of carpets and rugs containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) next year.
We understand that retailers, brand owners and their customers have questions about the ingredients in the products consumers use every day, and we take these concerns seriously. So how can they feel more confident that the products they buy and use are safe?
First, it is important to recognize that chemicals sold and used in the United States are highly regulated and are subject to oversight by more than a half-dozen federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Today, any chemistry introduced or imported into the U.S. must undergo rigorous review and approval processes by government bodies including EPA and FDA.
Additionally, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and our member companies work with retailers, product manufacturers and others along the value chain to share information about the safe, appropriate use of chemicals and work to provide clear, transparent, science-based safety information about chemical ingredients in products.
ACC members also adhere to the Responsible Care® Product Safety Code, a set of management practices outlining actions companies should take to guide the development of safe products and to transparently share information related to product safety. In addition, to help enhance scientific understanding of chemical safety, our industry also sponsors two primary scientific initiatives: the Long Range Initiative or LRI promotes innovation in assessing chemical safety while the Center for Advancing Risk Assessment Science and Policy (ARASP) helps advance knowledge about how chemicals interact with the body and the relationship between chemical exposure and safety.
Assessing product safety is more than simply noting the presence of a chemical in a product formulation. Decisions about chemicals in products should be based on scientific approaches that consider the amount of a chemical ingredient in a product, as well as how people use the product and the extent to which they may come in contact with the chemical ingredients in the products.
In addition, manufacturers must consider the unintended consequences and potential trade-offs that may result from removing or substituting a chemical ingredient in a product.
Chemical management policies that take a so-called hazard-only approach, based on restricted substance lists or “red lists,” can create the impression that a chemistry included on such a list cannot ever be safely used, in any product. Blanket bans on individual chemicals in every application may jeopardize many products that provide important benefits to consumers.
Promoting chemical safety is a shared responsibility along the value chain, and also provides an opportunity for collaboration among chemical manufacturers, brands, retailers and others to develop safe, effective products that meet consumer needs. ACC and its members are committed to collaborating with downstream users, retailers, brand owners and government regulators to support the safe manufacture and use of consumer products. We will work to continue to make chemical safety information publicly available and work through the supply chain to support the safe use of our chemistries.