Tightening Regulations in Europe and at the State and Local Level in the United States

The U.S. federal government during the administration of President George W. Bush is widely recognized as unsympathetic to environmental regulations. Governments elsewhere have stepped into the void with their own regulatory initiatives. California and the European Union's outlawing of brominated flame retardants are prominent examples. Other examples abound, most prominently the current European Union efforts (the so-called REACH initiative) to systematically overhaul chemical management in member states. REACH is based on the idea of "no data-no market" - companies must make public much more data than are available now on the hazards of their products, or face the risk that they will not be able to continue selling them. Chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) and those that are very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) are the "low hanging fruit" that likely will be the initial regulatory targets. Hormone-disrupting chemicals may also be controlled, as will those that are carcinogens, mutagens, and reproductive toxicants. Companies understandably and justifiably will make the case that certain chemicals have yielded sizeable social benefits (e.g., flame retardants' contributions to reductions in fire deaths), and REACH will allow them to make this case before controls are considered. But those companies that have gone through an exercise like S.C. Johnson's Greenlist evaluation for "eco-effectiveness" may be better positioned to be winners under the REACH process than those companies that have not.

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