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What is Chemical Security?

Louisville child at facility fenceA child playing in Louisville's Chickasaw Park looks onto a neighboring industrial facility. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Crowe

The Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA) utilizes the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals to guide policy, regulation, and rulemaking for industry and government agencies as it pertains to Chemical Security. Chemical Security is a term that describes community and worker protection from chemicals that are often stored near where people are living, or that are transported through residential areas, posing a hazard to families, children, workers and the environment.

Every day, millions of people live and work in the shadow of 12,440 high-risk chemical facilities that store and use highly hazardous chemicals with the potential to kill or injure thousands of workers and community residents. Eighty-nine of these facilities put more than one million people at risk.

The people who live in communities surrounding these facilities are at greater risk than anyone except the workers in the plant in the event of an explosion or catastrophic release of a poison gas. These communities are more likely to be low-income communities and communities of color.

Chemical manufacturing plants, chemical storage facilities (such as those used for wastewater treatment plants or manufacturing), train yards and port facilities are typical areas where chemical security is an issue.

Corporations tend to build these chemical storage areas in low income communities of color, whose families are disproportionately and adversely effected by chemical exposures. EJHA promotes safer chemicals and processes that exist as the alternatives to the toxic chemicals currently used by facilities and industries located in environmental justice communities in the United States and throughout the world.

The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals provides guidance for policy making that is rooted in justice for communities and workers.

The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals

A Platform for Creating a Safe and Healthy Environment through Innovation

Fundamental reform to current chemical laws is necessary to protect children, workers, communities, and the environment. We must shift market and government actions to protect health and the natural systems that support us. As a priority, we must act to phase out the most dangerous chemicals, develop safer alternatives, protect high-risk communities, and ensure that those responsible for creating hazardous chemicals bear the full costs of correcting damages to our health and the environment.

By designing new, safer chemicals, products, and production systems we will protect people's health and create healthy, sustainable jobs. Some leading companies are already on this path. They are creating safe products and new jobs by using clean, innovative technologies. But transforming entire markets will require policy change. A first step to creating a safe and healthy global environment is a major reform of our nation's chemicals policy. Any reform must:

Require Safer Substitutes and Solutions

Seek to eliminate the use and emissions of hazardous chemicals by altering production processes, substituting safer chemicals, redesigning products and systems, rewarding innovation and re-examining product function. Safer substitution includes an obligation on the part of the public and private sectors to invest in research and development of sustainable chemicals, products, materials and processes.

Phase Out Persistent, Bioaccumulative, or Highly Toxic Chemicals

Prioritize for elimination chemicals that are slow to degrade, accumulate in our bodies or living organisms, or are highly hazardous to humans or the environment. Ensure that chemicals eliminated in the United States are not exported to other countries.

Give the Public and Workers the Full Right-to-Know and Participate

Provide meaningful involvement for the public and workers in decisions on chemicals. Disclose chemicals and materials, list quantities of chemicals produced, used, released, and exported, and provide public/worker access to chemical hazard, use and exposure information.

Act on Early Warnings

Act with foresight. Prevent harm from new or existing chemicals when credible evidence of harm exists, even when some uncertainty remains regarding the exact nature and magnitude of the harm.

Require Comprehensive Safety Data for All Chemicals

For a chemical to remain on or be placed on the market manufacturers must provide publicly available safety information about that chemical. The information must be sufficient to permit a reasonable evaluation of the safety of the chemical for human health and the environment, including hazard, use and exposure information. This isthe principle of "No Data, No Market."

Take Immediate Action to Protect Communities and Workers

When communities and workers are exposed to levels of chemicals that pose a health hazard, immediate action is necessary to eliminate these exposures. We must ensure that no population is disproportionately burdened by chemicals.

 

Dates must be set for implementing each of these reforms. Together these changes are a first step towards reforming a 30-year-old chemical management system that fails to protect public health and the environment. By implementing the Louisville Charter and committing to the innovation of safer chemicals and processes, governments and corporations will be leading the way toward a healthier economy and a healthier society.

For more information on the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals you can visit www.louisvillecharter.org.
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