ALEC Chemical Policy Principles
Mission: To promote human progress, health, and safety by advancing a free-and-open marketplace in which competition and innovation guide the development and application of valuable chemical products.
Free markets and resulting competition has advanced the development of numerous chemical technologies that provide critically important benefits to society. Market disciplines supported by well-functioning legal systems ensure that private companies have substantial incentives to ensure public health and safety and that the benefits of their products far outweigh any risks.
Chemicals in consumer products pose very low risks. The best available evidence indicates that the risks associated with trace chemicals in consumer products are negligible and that these products provide substantial benefits. In fact, as mankind has increased use of synthetic chemicals in developed nations, such as the United States, humans are living longer and healthier lives. While at the turn of the 20th century, life expectancy was just 47 years, by 2007, it had risen to 78 years.[i] And according to the National Cancer Institute’s annual reports to the nation on cancer, both cancer incidence and mortality have declined.[ii]
Chemical technologies greatly enhance human health and well-being. Chlorine for example is used to make 85 percent of pharmaceuticals,[iii] and thanks to its use to clean our water supply, tens-of-thousands, if not millions, of deaths and illnesses are prevented every year. In fact, since cities began using chlorination to sanitize water starting in the 1880s, waterborne-related deaths in the United States dropped from 75 to 100 deaths per 100,000 people to less than 0.1 deaths per 100,000 people annually by 1950.[iv]
Chemicals used to produce our food ensure that more people have access to affordable food than ever before, and these products have environmental benefits. For example the use of herbicides to control weeds decreases the need for tilling soil, which, in turn, reduces soil erosion by 50 to 98 percent.[v] High-yield farming, which includes the use of chemical fertilizers, and pesticides, makes it possible for farmers to feed a larger population of people while allowing more land to wildlife conservation. For example, researcher Indur Goklany points out: “If U.S. agricultural technology had been frozen at 1910 levels—i.e. if cropland per capita had stayed at 1910 levels—then to produce the same output as achieved in 2004, U.S. Farmers would have had to utilize …more than four times the total amount of land and habitat under special protection in the U.S. in 1999—including National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and National Wilderness Areas. Quite possibly, the increase in land productivity averted a potential catastrophe for U.S. wildlife and perhaps even biodiversity more generally.[vi]
Other examples include various chemicals that make plastics. The final products are used to ensure longevity and storage of our blood supply; compose various medical devices; transport emergency water supplies; package food to extend shelf life and prevent dangerous food-borne contamination, as well as meet other important needs.
Regulatory action in the absence of scientific certainty increases public health risks. Policies based on the precautionary principle pose substantial risks to society by undermining market-driven innovation and access to valuable chemical products. Excessive precaution places many products that protect our food, make our medicines, and improve quality of life at risk.
Indirect regulatory action undermines access to valuable chemical products. In addition to direct regulation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a number of state governments have begun to list chemicals on “concern lists,” suggesting they are dangerous without much of any evidence. As a result, these products are suffering in the marketplace as manufacturers pursue product reformulations and replacements to avoid negative publicity. Hence, they divert resources from other valuable enterprises to research and develop substitutes for useful, low risk products already on the market.
ALEC Chemical Regulation Principles
Reliance on the market to develop and produce new technologies. The free market should be the principal determinant through which products reach the marketplace. A free-market is the best vehicle for the advancement of human progress, health, and wellbeing because it facilitates innovation, experimentation, and consumer choice.
Reliance on existing chemical products. ALEC members support continued use existing products and the benefits they provide to society as well as market-driven substitutes. ALEC members recognize that a competitive market process is the best means for product development and selection and that government forced-product substitution and reformulation undermines economic well-being, innovation, and consumer choice.
Public Safety. ALEC members recognize that market disciplines that include product liability offer the strongest incentives for businesses to promote public health and safety. These disciplines are superior to government regulations, which are largely driven by political considerations and incentives rather than consumer needs and demands.
Risk-based standards. Before governments set additional safety standards they should demonstrate that the existing public exposures pose unreasonable risks to public health based on the best available, peer reviewed science that employs a weight-of-the evidence test.
Regulations should do no harm. Chemical laws should employ a risk benefit analysis and demand that regulations or product bans do not inadvertently increase public health risks. For example, laws should require regulators to demonstrate that substitute products exist that will reduce—and not increase—risks to public health before regulating any product.
Cost-Benefit Analysis. Chemical laws should demand that all state regulations pass cost-benefit analysis before issuance, ensuring that the benefits outweigh the costs to businesses in general, small businesses, consumers, and society as a whole.
Regulatory Burden. Chemical laws should demand that regulators choose the least burdensome regulations to achieve their objectives, with special consideration of the impact on small businesses, consumer choice, and prices.
Regulatory Accountability. Chemical laws should prevent state regulators from undermining valuable chemical technologies by placing them on concern lists or regulating them without demonstration of risk and without offering opportunity for public comments.
Chemical regulation reform. ALEC members support policies that streamline regulations to ensure public health, economic well-being, and market innovation. Regulatory bodies should periodically review chemical regulations to ensure they pass credible cost-benefit analyses and to eliminate duplicative and unnecessary chemical regulations.
Trade. ALEC members support free-trade between U.S. states and countries. States should avoid chemical policies that undermine the free-flow of goods by employing unnecessary regulations. Specifically, ALEC members oppose policies that force manufacturers to reformulate products based on questionable science and those that fail to follow the principles outlined in this policy statement.
Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force on May 3, 2013.
Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors on August 5, 2013.
[i] Health, United States, 2010: With a Special Feature on Death and Dying (Washington D.C.: Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, National Center for Health Statistics, 2011), http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus10.pdf#022
[ii] Jemal A, Simard EP, et al., “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2009, Featuring the Burden and Trends in HPV-Associated Cancers and HPV Vaccination Coverage Levels,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 105, no. 3 (February 2013 ): 175-201.
[iii] Gordon W. Gribble, “Evaluating Chlorine and Chlorinated Compounds” (New York, American Council on Science and Health, 2004), http://www.acsh.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/20040503_chlorine.pdf.
[iv] J. Michael LaNier, “Historical Development of Municipal Water Systems in the United States, 1776–1976,” Journal of the American Water Works Association 68, no. 4 (1976): 177.
[v] Nicholas Eberstadt, “World Population Prospects for the Twenty-First Century: The Specter of ‘Depopulation’?” in Earth Report 2000, ed. Ronald Bailey (New York: McGraw Hill, 2000), 65.
[vi] Indur M. Goklany, “Comparing 20th-Century Trends in US and Global Agricultural Water and Land Use,” in The Water Revolution: Practical Solutions to Water Scarcity, ed. Kendra Okonski (London: International Policy Press, 2006).