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New strategies proposed to reduce toxic substances in Washington

The public is invited to weigh in on new strategies being proposed to reduce the use of toxic substances in Washington.

Last fall, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) convened a group of business, government, academic and non-governmental leaders to come up with new approaches for reducing toxic chemical pollution in Washington. Ecology asked them to think outside their typical legal and political silos to find creative new approaches to toxics that would offer better human health, environmental and economic outcomes.

After several months of thoughtful discussion and hard work, the group delivered the results of its discussion to Gov. Jay Inslee and the leadership of the Washington State Legislature.

"These proposed strategies come from knowledgeable experts working alongside the Department of Ecology. The idea now is to begin a broader conversation about how to build on our state's past accomplishments to reduce toxic chemicals," said Maia Bellon, Ecology's newly appointed director.

"Reducing exposure to toxic chemicals is a public health priority, given our rising health care costs, worrisome health trends, and ongoing exposures," said Howard Frumkin, Dean of the School of Public Health, University of Washington. Frumkin was a member of the workgroup.

"We don't know as much as we'd like about how toxic chemicals affect health, but we can't wait.  We need to act, and we need to do so in ways that are sensible, fair, and evidence-based.  I believe that our state can come together to identify and implement creative, effective solutions.  This white paper is a splendid start," Frumkin said.

Sara Kendall, Vice President for Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at Weyerhaeuser Company and a workgroup participant, said, "These issues are important, but they are also very complex. The white paper represents a good starting place for a more complete and thorough discussion by stakeholders."

The recommendations include establishing a new state policy to prefer safer chemicals and that Washington set clear priorities for reducing toxic chemicals.

The group's recommendations describe some of the concerns with toxic chemicals in products and in the environment. It lays out some principals for management of toxic chemicals, and makes twelve recommendations to reduce exposures to toxic chemicals in Washington.

Recommendations include specific actions for toxic chemical reduction.  Some of these ideas - such as establishing a Green Chemistry Center - can be implemented now. Others - like voluntary consumer labeling drawing attention to safer product ingredients and changes to the liability system for toxic chemicals - would need significant further study before decisions about them could be made.

Although each member of the workgroup had individual preferences and concerns, they shared a common belief that society can do a better job of reducing the adverse health, environmental and economic effects of toxic chemicals. Moving forward successfully requires a variety of new approaches and ideas.

The group's recommendations will be used to engage a wider range of people interested in finding and implementing more effective solutions to toxic chemicals.

Those interested in commenting and providing input are encouraged to do so. Send comments by March 11, 2013 to: Carol Kraege, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600, or emailcarol.kraege@ecy.wa.gov

The Washington Toxics Reduction Strategies Workgroup letter and white paper can be found here:http://www.ecy.wa.gov/toxics/docs/trs_ToxicsPolicyReformWA.pdf

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