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About the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals

A Platform for Creating a Safe and Healthy Environment through Innovation

Established in 2004

Why Louisville?

In the area of Louisville, Kentucky, known as “Rubbertown,” 11 industrial facilities release millions of pounds per year of toxic air emissions. The surrounding community is predominantly African-American. In May 2004, Louisville grassroots environmental justice groups hosted a meeting of organizations and individuals whose common goal is to pass government policies that protect human health and the environment from exposure to unnecessary harmful chemicals. The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals was named to honor this city and all the communities across the country and around the world committed to ending harm from toxic chemical contamination.

What is the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals?

The Charter is comprised of six background papers that describe the six key principles necessary to regulate chemicals and shift the economy to safer products and clean production. Putting these six principles into good government policy protects the health of people and their communities, gives businesses and consumers the information they need to make good choices about chemicals, and provides incentives for a market shift to green chemistry that the world economy is demanding.

How to Use the Louisville Charter

We encourage you to use the Charter for Safer Chemicals and endorse the principles. The following are some practical applications of the Charter. These activities show how broadly the document can be applied and the great need for continued input from environmental justice and health groups.

Federal, State, and Local Legislative Policies

Now is a crucial time for chemical policy reform. Congress is considering an update to the 1976 Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA), and several states are moving forward with policies that restrict the most toxic chemicals and require greater disclosure. We must ensure that the principles of the Louisville Charter are at the forefront of these efforts to reform policy, and that new laws and regulations protect everyone – including the most vulnerable communities and populations.

Key principles of the Charter have already had great success in certain states. For example, in Massachusetts, the Toxic Use Reduction Act requires that companies assess their options to reduce or eliminate certain toxic chemicals, through measures including material substitution and product reformulation (key tenets in the Charter). In 10 years, these companies reduced their use of toxic chemicals by 40%, by-product waste by 58% and toxic emissions by 80%. A cost benefit analysis shows these companies saved $14 million over the same period.

Market Campaigns

In conjunction with our work to pass strong chemical policies, many groups are working to educate businesses and consumers about how to choose safer chemicals and products. They are also advocating for companies to implement health-protective chemical policies, like those outlined in the Charter for Safer Chemicals. For more information about these market campaigns, see our companion website, www.SafeMarkets.org

Corporate Engagement

The Charter for Safer Chemicals provides a common set of principles that manufacturers can endorse to make decisions about which chemicals they use and release, and how they interact with workers and the public, particularly their immediate neighbors. Leading brands in the electronics industry, the health care sector, and others are phasing out toxic chemicals and implementing other principles from the Charter. They are collaborating with NGOs and leaders in government and sustainability through groups like the BizNGO Working Group and the American Sustainable Business Council.