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Environmentalists Campaign for Chemical Industry Reform, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Concern for the environment is nothing new, yet decisions affecting the chemical sector are making headlines.  Microsoft curtailed its use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), also known as vinyl, for computer packaging products.  Other companies cutting their use of PVC include Walmart Stores and Kaiser Permanente.  Another potentially harmful chemical is bisphenol-a, or BPA.  Some animal studies have linked BPA to hormonal changes.  The Canadian government was the first to declare it toxic.  A number of Canada’s retailers, including Walmart Canada, had previously banned food-related containers such as baby bottles, sipping cups and other plastic holders made with the plastic.
Environmentalists and health advocates claim that PVC is dangerous because it releases dioxins, which potentially cause cancer.  Elements in PVC called phthalates are also suspected of causing reproductive disorders.
Concerns are also increasing about plastic waste in such products as bottled water.  In response, bottlers such as PepsiCo are using less plastic in their packaging.  PepsiCo’s Aquafina brand is being sold in bottles that are about 20% less in weight.  Coca-Cola continues to produce lighter and lighter bottles for its Dasani brand.  Coca-Cola also increased its distribution of several soft drink brands in eight-ounce glass bottles in response to concerns about toxins in plastic bottles.
A growing number of U.S. cities and states are restricting the use of single-use plastics.  In the European Union, a proposal known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) requires chemical producers to test their products for hazardous substances and submit test results to a central EU chemicals agency in Finland.  REACH became a reality on June 1, 2007, with the establishment of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).  Supporters hope to curb the production and importation of hazardous chemicals in Europe, while detractors voice concerns about the burden placed on businesses to carry out the testing.  Countries outside the EU (which include the U.S., Australia, Brazil, India and Japan among others) are wary of the initiative as it may hinder trade and call for the alignment of REACH requirements with test guidelines issued by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of highly developed nations, that produces recommendations on economic and social issues.
As of early 2023, several U.S. states had banned products containing PFAS (a class of chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl), which have been used in carpets, cookware, food packing, shoes and cosmetics for decades.  While PFAS enables substances to resist heat as well as grease and water stains, the U.S. EPA links them to a number of diseases including high cholesterol, thyroid disorders and kidney and testicular cancers.

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