Group Unveils Roadmap for

New York’s Environmental Health Leadership

Advocates call for New York to identify &
shut the door on known toxics
NYS Roadmap cover cropped.png

(Albany, NY) Clean and Healthy New York released  New York State’s Environmental Health Leadership: A Roadmap to Turn Off the Tap on Toxic Chemicals and Build a Sustainable, Just, Circular Economy. At a time when federal regulations are being rolled back, and New York State lawmakers have an appetite for acting in the public interest, the Roadmap identifies roles and actions that can place New York State as a definitive leader in transparency, action on harmful chemicals and classes, innovation, and integration of chemical considerations into the broader field of sustainability.

Examples of new leadership in 2019 include the Consumer Right to Know Act and expansion of lead poisoning prevention in the Governor's budget legislation. The Roadmap demonstrates how, with a circular economy, we can stop introducing chemicals that harm human health and the environment and switch to nontoxic materials.

The report is endorsed by over 20 ally organizations, including WE ACT for Environmental Justice, New York State Sustainable Business Council, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Earthjustice, and New York League of Conservation Voters, NYS American Academy of Pediatrics Chapters 1, 2, & 3, and Healthy Schools Network.

The Roadmap identifies 4 primary routes to achieve New York’s leadership:

1. Transparency: Throughout the supply chain, purchasers including individuals need to know what is in the materials they buy so they can choose the healthiest option.

2. Action on harmful chemicals and their classes: When credible information indicates that chemicals are hazardous, government and businesses should act to limit their presence.

3. Innovation of inherently safer options: Investment in green chemistry and engineering, identifying solutions built on inherently benign, reusable, repairable, recyclable materials.

4. Integration of chemical considerations into broader definitions of sustainability: The petrochemical industry drives production of gases disrupting our climate, plastic pollution crowding the oceans, and toxic chemicals spreading from the equator to the poles. All rely on the same feedstock. We can only fully transition from a linear supply chain to a circular one when we detoxify the materials within it.

New York should commit to pollution prevention, green chemistry, and engineering as necessary drivers for advancement, and consistently work to turn off the tap on toxic chemicals and replace them with viable, safer alternatives.

The Roadmap identifies key state policy actions for 2019:

1.  Transparency: The Governor and Legislature must pass budget legislation requiring full disclosure of chemicals present in all consumer products and their health hazards, as introduced in the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Executive Budget. The Attorney General must vigorously defend the cleaning product ingredient disclosure from the lawsuit filed by the companies that do not want to provide full information about their products.

2.  Action on harmful chemicals and classes: The Legislature must pass laws banning harmful chemicals, including bisphenols, PFAS chemicals, and flame retardants.

3.  Innovation: The Legislature should codify the State’s Green Procurement program, and the Governor should draft a Green Chemistry Executive Order, integrated with other State environmental and energy goals.

4.  Integration: The Governor should fold together State action on environmental priorities by weaving together materials concerns, green innovation, and climate and energy.

“The time is now for New York to turn off the tap on toxic chemicals and build a sustainable, just, circular economy,” said Bobbi Wilding, Deputy Director of Clean and Healthy New York. “The Roadmap demonstrates how New York State’s government, business community, academic institutions, public interest organizations, and people can build and model solutions that move New York forward as a national leader in environmental health.”

“As a mom, I’m always working to ensure the things my children use are healthy for them, but it’s not an easy job - companies rarely tell parents what’s in the products they sell, and usually focus on complying with chemical laws, not on selecting known safer materials. As a cancer survivor, this matters to me, because I don’t want the materials that make up my kids’ daily lives to increase the likelihood they’ll face a similar diagnosis.” said Dorian Solot.

“One very important aspect covered in the Roadmap is the idea of a socially just circular economy,” said Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives, WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “Communities of color often face disproportionate harm from toxic chemicals and waste, given the current linear economic structure and inadequate legislation to protect these communities most at risk.”

“We’ve been on a toxic treadmill for years with extract-use-dump business models driving our pollution management and the hindsight mitigation of harm.  What we need is a sustainable circular economy in which every material has many lives, safe materials are chosen from the start, and innovation meets the demand for such materials. New York State can and should be a leader in this transition,” said Bob Rossi, Executive Director of New York Sustainable Business Council (NYSBC).

Chemicals that make up products in our daily lives can have profound, often lifelong, impacts –contributing to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, birth defects and other health problems for people, poisoning waters for aquatic life, and warming the planet’s atmosphere. There are infrequent, limited chemical restriction policies, which often result in the substitution of an equally hazardous, yet less well-studied unregulated replacement. Oftentimes, inadequate definitions of harmful chemicals lead to “emerging chemicals of concern.” These chemicals, such as PFAS, are the toxic chemicals regulators weren’t initially paying attention to but were later recognized as problematic after the chemicals were in widespread use.

Given the tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce, and the complexity of achieving scientific certainty as to the health and environmental risks they pose, there is no foreseeable end in sight without a paradigm shift in how our society addresses chemicals. Existing policies represent real progress in protecting workers, people, communities and the environment, but much more must be done to ensure a healthy future for our children.

Last weekend at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, the concept of a circular economy was discussed in depth, with a focus on reusable packaging and the launch of a competition to support entrepreneurs that promote sustainable consumption and production. As demonstrated in the Roadmap, we can only fully transition from a linear supply chain to a circular one when we detoxify the materials within it. The fundamental shift to treating all materials as future inputs, not simply as ultimate wastes, will preserve our irreplaceable resources.

Access the full Roadmap (PDF) here

For more information, contact: Liz Ahearn, Clean and Healthy New York, 518-703-3294, liz@cleanhealthyny.org

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