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Safer Product Groups, Manufacturer Seek Transparency on Chemical Ingredients

Monday, September 23, 2013

By Patrick Ambrosio  

Sept. 19 --A panel consisting of representatives from environmental groups, consumer advocacy organizations and a sustainable product manufacturer agreed that they would like to see chemical manufacturers fully disclose the ingredients of their products to regulators and the public.

Ryan Williams, director of sustainability and so-called good cop at Method, said Sept. 18 that his company supports “radical” transparency. Method, which markets naturally derived, biodegradable products, would like to know every substance that is in the ingredients used in its products and believes that information should be passed along to consumers, according to Williams.

Williams spoke on a panel at the 3rd Safer Consumer Products Summit, organized by Infocast Inc. and held in Washington.

Renee Sharp, director of research for the Environmental Working Group, concurred with Williams. She said all products should have all of their ingredients disclosed.

Williams and Sharp made those comments after Kathleen Roberts, executive director of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group, asked the panel to state their “wishes” for chemical policy.

Information Could Inform Consumers

Following the comments by Williams and Sharp, a member of the audience questioned whether the full release of chemical ingredients would actually benefit consumers.

Williams acknowledged that Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) numbers are “not appropriate” for consumers. He said the full disclosure of chemical ingredients would allow government regulators and academic researchers to have a better understanding of a chemical, allowing for more thorough research.

Williams said nongovernmental organizations could then interpret that research and help inform consumers.

Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Fund, said the ability of consumers to understand issues with chemicals shouldn't be underestimated. She mentioned phthalates and bisphenol A as examples of chemicals that consumers are now very aware of.

Six government agencies around the world have concluded that BPA is safe as used, but food manufacturers are examining possible substitutes to line food containers to address consumer concerns about the possible health effects of BPA exposure .

Negative Public Perception

Carol Hood, technical lead for the Safety Center of Expertise at the Clorox Co., said during a different panel that she is unsure how the chemical industry can change public perception of it.

Hood said it is going to take a “paradigm shift” to convey to the public that companies want consumers to be safe. She classified Clorox as a “very conservative” company when it comes to safety, mentioning that the company doesn't work with substances that are identified on the Environmental Protection Agency's list of chemicals of concern.

Bob Hamilton, regulatory policy director for Amway, agreed that the public has a negative perception of the chemical industry at large, but he noted that the public has a positive view of many product brands.

Hamilton added that he would like to see more affirmative education on the benefits of products. He mentioned industry efforts to promote hand washing in schools as an example of an affirmative education program.

The School Network for Absenteeism Prevention (SNAP) program, a joint initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cleaning Institute, aims to improve hand hygiene habits among school students and prevent the spread of infectious diseases, according to ACI's website.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Ambrosio in Washington at pambrosio@bna.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Sullivan at jsullivan@bna.com

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