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Are safer chemicals and a thriving economy at odds?

Last week we tackled this very question at a Safer Chemicals Small Business Forum in Orlando, Florida. Shane Shirley-Smith, a small business owner, and valued Safer Chemicals Blogger, hosted an incredibly successful event with over two-dozen small business owners from across the state of Florida. 

What did we learn from the business owners?

We learned that the Safe Chemicals Act could help their businesses. The room was filled with people that come from companies all along the supply chain. There were product manufacturers, businesses who sell products after they are made, and end of life waste management folks.

After an overview of the issue and understanding how our laws are failing our business community, we had a robust discussion on why they see the need for toxic chemical reform. People got it.

They understood why the Safe Chemicals Act would help their businesses, the primary reasons focused on increased transparency and access to information. This confirms what we learned from a recent poll of small business owners in the U.S.; the majority of small business owners support stronger regulations of toxic chemicals.

We also learned that the room was filled with business owners, but they are first and foremost people — parents, aunts, and uncles, all of who care deeply about the health of their families. Many were drawn to this issue from being personally affected by cancer, asthma and other health problems.

Moving beyond the “industry vs. environmentalist” paradigm

We live in a complex and nuanced world, and as a result the policy solutions we seek must also be nuanced. All too often the news media and Congress operates under an “industry vs. environmentalist” mindset.

The reality is we live in a much more complex world. The old paradigm no longer applies and we need to do everything we can to communicate that message to Congress.

Take our coalition for example, it’s incredibly diverse and represents over 450 organizations and businesses ranging from unique backgrounds. The support for the Safe Chemicals Act is broad and strong.

The Business Case for TSCA Reform

Who’s doing well under our current system?

There is a select portion of “industry” that is doing well under our current system. The chemical industry. They operate virtually unregulated and are allowed to produce and sell chemicals on to the market without providing adequate health and safety information. In some cases, the name of the chemical is even kept secret under our federal laws.

How is the rest of “industry” doing?

There is a vast and broad part of the business community that is being failed by our current system, those companies that are downstream users of chemicals (product manufacturers, retailers, etc.)

For example, we learned from Maria Martinez, Founder of Naturally Green Products, that by increasing information on chemical hazards, a world of opportunity for creating safer industrial cleaners could be opened to her under the Safe Chemicals Act. More access to information, means more innovation.

This is just one of many stories we heard at the forum, more of which will be shared on our blog.

A special thanks

I want to publicly thank Shane for the hard work she put into this Small Business Forum. Her message rang loud and clear: small business owners support the Safe Chemicals Act.

Shane has proven to be an incredible spokesperson for this issue, having both personal and professional reasons for supporting the Safe Chemicals Act. Another big thank you to the businesses who traveled far and wide to attend this forum. Let this be the beginning to the fun and hard road to safer chemicals.

Here is a list of the businesses who attended:

To follow Lindsay on Twitter: @Lindsay_SCHF

Are you a business interested in joining our coalition? Sign up here!