Policy & Law

Preparing for the Future

As global chemical production doubles over the next 24 years, a comprehensive approach to chemicals policies is needed to protect human health and ecosystems, stimulate new investment in safer chemistries, and build the foundation for the emerging green economy. Precautionary approaches to decision-making are needed to more efficiently reduce risks and orient market signals toward safe alternatives, even where definitive evidence of cause and effect is not yet established. The policy and Economy sphere integrates studies and the environmental health sciences, public policy, business innovation, economics, and law to advance effective chemicals policies and business practices.

Closing legal loopholes

Long-standing public policies governing chemical design, production, and use need deep restructuring in light of new science on the health and environmental effects of anthropogenic chemicals. Such reforms are essential to safeguard ecosystem integrity, human health, and economic sustainability. To transform the design of chemicals and products, a new chemicals policy will need to address existing gaps in federal laws, notable the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. Doing so will reorient the chemicals market toward safer chemistries, with long-term benefits for health and the environment- and for research, education, and new investment in green chemistry.

Guiding low carbon emissions

Reducing hazards of emerging low-carbon energy technologies is essential to protecting health and ecosystems from new sources of chemical pollution and exposure. As the green economy grows, it will be critical to link the principles of green chemistry with low-carbon energy technologies. Policies and business practices that make these links will generate co-benefits for climate change, public health, and the economy.

Unifying global policies

As new chemicals policies develop in the global north, it is likely that hazardous substances will continue to be sold and disposed in the global south. A framework to assure global environmental just is thus integral to chemicals policy, the Policy and Law sphere is developing collaborations with colleagues in Africa and Asia to build international capacity in chemicals and materials policy.


Policy & Law Associate Director: Prof. Alastair Iles, Society & Environment, College of Natural Resources