Dr. Blake is regularly interviewed for her expertise on policy reform efforts and chemicals in products. She is also sought after for input on technical reports. Look below for links to radio interviews, videos of short interviews on chemicals in products, and links to print publications.
Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, featured Clean Production Actions Plastics Scorecard in a recent article in On Earth magazine. Read on for an excerpt of Ms. Freinkel’s article:
In a 2007 Skidmore College museum exhibit titled Molecules That Matter, the exhibit’s curators noted that we are never more than three feet away from something plastic. That stunning statistic reflects just how thoroughly plastics permeate the fabric of our daily lives. So it’s sobering, then, to consider that the plastics industry is one of the largest consumers and users of chemicals known to be hazardous to human health or to the environment.
The process by which fossil fuels are transformed into an iPhone case—or a toothbrush, a Barbie, a soda bottle, a car seat, or countless other objects—consumes a mindboggling 244 million tons of toxic chemicals, according to a recent report. The recipes for many of our most common consumer plastics include carcinogens such as benzene and styrene, as well as hormone-disrupting phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA). Indeed, 96 percent of the BPA that gets produced in our labs goes toward the manufacture of plastics.
Consumers have been concerned about the issue for years. But with plastic playing such an essential role in the global marketplace, the public demand for more information about the relative safety of different kinds of plastic has been met with a mostly tepid response from manufacturers.
Enter the Plastics Scorecard, a new tool that has been designed to evaluate the chemical footprints of these omnipresent materials. As far as I can tell, the Plastics Scorecard represents the first time that anyone has ever tried to bring this level of (you’ll pardon the pun) transparency to plastics. The hope, of course, is that—as with similar tools that are capable of analyzing the chemical footprints ofelectronics, cosmetics, and cleaning products—the Plastics Scorecard will encourage manufacturers, brand owners, and retailers to reduce industry’s reliance on hazardous chemicals that are, as of right now, such an integral part of plastics production. “We’re trying to lay out a framework that companies could use to make decisions about what would be a safer plastic,” says Mark Rossi, co-director of Clean Production Action (CPA), the Boston-based nonprofit that designed and produced the scorecard.
Use of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis in Regulatory Alternatives Analysis: A Case Study of Lead-Free Solder
Regulators are implementing new programs that require manufacturers of products containing certain chemicals of concern to identify, evaluate and adopt viable, safer alternatives. Such programs raise the difficult question for policymakers and regulated businesses of which alternatives are “viable” and “safer.” To address that question, these programs use “alternatives analysis,” an emerging methodology that integrates issues of human health and environmental effects with technical feasibility and economic impact. Despite the central role that alternatives analysis plays in these programs, the methodology itself is neither well-developed nor tailored to application in regulatory settings. This study uses the case of lead-based bar solder and its non-lead based alternatives to examine the application of two multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) methods to alternatives analysis: multi-attribute utility analysis and outranking. It develops and evaluates an alternatives analysis methodology and supporting decision-analysis software for use in a regulatory context, using weighting of the relevant decision criteria generated from a stakeholder elicitation process. The analysis produced complete rankings of the alternatives, including identification of the relative contribution to the ranking of each of the highest level decision criteria such as human health impacts, technical feasibility and economic feasibility. It also examined the effect of variation in data conventions, weighting, and decision frameworks on the outcome. The results indicate that MCDA can play a critical role in emerging prevention-based regulatory programs. MCDA methods offer a means for transparent, objective and rigorous analysis of products and processes, providing regulators and stakeholders with a common baseline understanding of the relative performance of alternatives and the trade-offs they present. Integr Environ Assess Manag © 2013 SETAC
Accepted for publication in Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, May 23, 2013 DOI: 10.1002/ieam.1449
- Timothy F. Malloy1,*, Peter J. Sinsheimer2, Ann Blake3, Igor Linkov4,5
GreenBiz.Com’s The Right Chemistry Blog: California’s Safer Consumer Product Regulations and B Corps
I was recently invited to write for GreenBiz.com’s The Right Chemistry Blog. I chose to focus on the economic opportunity for California inherent in the Safer Consumer Product regulations. Check it out here.
Why California is leading the way on chemical policy reform
California is in the last stages of promulgatinggroundbreaking regulations that will require manufacturers to seek safer alternatives to potentially harmful chemicals in consumer products. These regulations come after four years of animated discussion and unprecedented input, extending to thousands of comments submitted by a broad range of stakeholders.
As the regulations come closer to fruition, however, the standard arguments are surfacing about their potential impact on the state’s economy, including comparisons to the economic impacts of the European Union’s REACH chemical regulation, which came into effect in June 2007.
It is therefore probably worth noting that no less an entity than German chemical giant BASF stated in September of this year that REACH was “worth the money.” In the same report, CEFIC, the European Chemical Industry Council, stated that while it is too early to see any impact on innovation, it expects that REACH “will indeed benefit human health and the environment.”
More importantly, however, it behooves us to remember at this juncture why California, other states such as Maine and Washington, and a sizeable national and global movement are pushing for chemicals policy reform. The externalized costs to society of chemical use are large and growing. On the flip side, the potential to grow a green economy is already here; one example is B or Benefit corporations. B Corps are a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. More on that shortly.
The Costs of Chemical Exposure
It has been difficult, at best, to put hard numbers on the externalized costs to society of human health and environmental impacts of industrial chemical use. Clearly this is another data gap we need to start to fill; our best data are at least a decade old. However, even conservative estimates of disease burden and costs based on a handful of diseases with clear linkages to environmental exposures are already in the billions of dollars. Overall estimated costs of exposure to toxic substances in 2001 were estimated at $568 billion to $793 billion per year for Canada and the United States combined. As a contextual reminder, California constitutes 13 percent of the U.S. economy.
Next page: The top public health concerns of our time
If that isn’t enough to give you pause, consider this: Environmental exposures to chemicals have been highlighted as contributing factors in the top public health concerns of our time, including obesity, heart disease, infertility and childhood developmental problems. A few of these are highlighted below.
- The World Health Organization estimates that globally 44 percent of asthma, 16 percent of cardiovascular disease and 19 percent of all cancers can be attributed to environmental exposures.
- The childhood prevalence of asthma more than doubled from 1980 to 1996, from 3.6 percent to 7.5 percent. While not all exposures result from chemicals in consumer products, in Nov. 2011,California’s Department of Public Health highlighted recent research that links asthma with exposure to cleaning products, and other literature clearly links asthma and other diseases to consumer product exposure.
- In 2008 estimated national annual costs were $76.6 billion for lead poisoning, prenatal methyl mercury exposure, childhood cancer, asthma, intellectual disability, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Incidence of childhood cancers increased by 28 percent from 1974 to 1998, a span of 25 years, especially acute lymphoblastic leukemia, central nervous system tumors and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The good news is environmental exposures to chemicals are the public-health factor about which we can actually do something in fairly short order. Regulations are one part of the strategy, creating a backstop for the worst impacts. As it turns out, they’re a good investment. In 2011 the Federal Office of Management and Budget submitted a regular report to Congress that estimated that investment in health, safety and environmental regulations in the last decade has yielded a return on investment of 300-700 percent. The costs associated with those regulations were in the $44 to 63 billion range and benefits at federal, state, local and tribal levels estimated at $132 to $655 billion.
Building a Sustainable Economic Engine for California
Another part of the strategy comes from the marketplace. In Oct. 2011, Governor Brown signed B or benefit corporation legislation in California. Two hundred of the more than 600 existing B Corporations are located in California. Questions around disclosure of chemicals in a product’s life cycle are being incorporated into the latest version of the B Impact Assessment, but B Corps and other companies have already created profitable businesses without chemicals of concern.
These include nationally known consumer product companies such as Badger Balm and Seventh Generation in Vermont, and EO Products, Method and Elemental Herbs in California. California-based B Corp apparel companies include Clary Sage Organics, Indigenous Designs, and Oaklandish. B Corps span the consumer product market, from paper supplier New Leaf Paper, to stainless steel water bottle purveyorKleen Kanteen, and provider of compostable products WorldCentric. Other California companies profiting from green chemistry were featured in Environment California’s 2010 report, Green Chemistry at Work.
Under current regulatory structures, innovative companies are often challenged to get their safer alternative products to market because existing regulations do not ask if a potentially hazardous chemical is necessaryin a consumer product or if there’s a better way to achieve the required performance. The California Safer Consumer Product regulations have the ability to send a clear signal to the market that there is a huge potential market in green chemistry in California.
Not only is it is possible, it is absolutely vital for us to build a new economy where goods and services that we all utilize can be provided by companies that are profitable while providing social and environmental good. California has led the country before, from environmental regulation and energy efficiency in the 1970s to entirely new sectors of the economy in the 1990s. We can do it again.
Photocollage by GreenBiz Group
Leading California businesses are showing that consumer products don’t have to contain toxic chemicals, threaten public health, or produce large amounts of waste in order to work. These businesses are making California healthier and wealthier by designing products to be safe from the start, following the principles of green chemistry.
This report highlights 12 Golden State businesses or institutions that are identifying unnecessary hazards in their facilities, in their manufacturing processes and in the products they sell – and acting to eliminate them. In the process, these pioneers are demonstrating how a strong state-wide green chemistry policy can give birth to a new way of doing business – benefiting the people of California and setting an example for the nation as a whole. (more…)