Create Safe Jobs and a Sustainable Economy in California By Promoting Green Chemistry and Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals
The current U.S. chemical manufacturing industry is unsustainable: it uses large amounts of oil and other nonrenewable fuels and water. It is also a major generator of hazardous wastes and emissions to our air, water, and land, which in turn contributes to rising rates of chronic disease, cancer, and reproductive health problems.
The U.S. and California chemical industry was once a world leader. It remains the largest produce but is rapidly losing ground. It has significantly reduced research and development and cut jobs, causing us to lose our competitive edge. Jobs are
increasingly being moved offshore. While the sector continues to grow, it is growing at about half the rate of global production. California is known as a world leader in innovation in high tech and more recently in Green Chemistry. The state is well positioned to become a leader in supporting and creating a Safe and Sustainable Chemical Industry. A shift to the production and use of chemicals that are safer for workers, the environment and human health can create California jobs and new market opportunities, reversing the 20-year decline in employment in this sector. A look at the current U.S. and global chemical industry points the direction forward.
“The U.S. chemical industry is at a crossroads. We can either follow the path of weak and inappropriate regulation — and continue to produce potentially hazardous chemicals while manufacturing jobs disappear— or we can move toward disclosure, regulation and sustainability, thereby encouraging innovation, creating stability for businesses and investors and new markets for safe and sustainable chemicals.”
The benefits of a more sustainable chemical industry:
- Increased job creation
- Less pollution,
- Better health outcomes,
- A stronger foundation for the long-run sustainability of the U.S. economy,
- Technological innovation,
- Markets that work better for consumers, workers, investors, and businesses,
- The costs of continuing on the current path: A sector that continues to have the largest pollution abatement costs, Costs of handling of wastes and harmful substances,
- Environmental lawsuits and toxic release rise in chronic disease among all, particularly those most exposed (workers) or most vulnerable (poor, surrounding communities, young children, pregnant women and the elderly)
- Continued decline of jobs in the chemical and plastic industry sectors
- Lack of incentives to develop safer alternatives
The Current Challenge:
California and the U.S. needs to catch up with changes happening elsewhere in the global marketplace and move the chemical industry in new innovative directions. The chemical industry, including plastics and petroleum-based products, is critical to sustaining U.S. manufacturing. There is increasing demand from consumers and suppliers of consumer products for safer products. Several large companies have begun to ask for more ingredient information and shift to products with safer chemicals. Yet poor communities have become the dumping ground for toxic products. A 2015 report revealed that 81% of Dollar Store products contained at least one toxic ingredient. Chemical Jobs are Being Shed Offshore
- California has lost over 20,000 jobs in chemical manufacturing and 21,000 in
plastics production between 1990 and 2015. (1). The U.S. lost over 225,000
jobs during a similar period.
- There are about 800,000 jobs in the chemical sector in the U.S. and over 600,000 employed in their overseas affiliates. In the recent trend to “offshore” U.S. chemical jobs, over half (58%) went to high income countries
in Europe, Japan, or Canada.
- A major factor in this job loss is lack of investment in innovative technologies. Research and Development (R&D) funding in the U.S. chemical industry is low: currently just 1.5% of sales, less than 45% of the average for U.S. manufacturing as a whole, while other companies in other countries invest much more in R&