The Pervasiveness of Chemicals
The American Chemistry Council estimates that 95% of the goods produced by the US are touched by the business of chemistry: from colorants and flavor enhancers in our food to the surfactants used in laundry detergent and soaps, to the butadiene rubber tires you drove to work on. Since the inception of the EPA in the 1970s, industry has become more and more heavily regulated, due to the gradual recognition that chemicals are pervasive in our modern world. The profession of ‘product stewardship’ seeks to ensure that products containing chemical ingredients are developed, manufactured, transported, used and disposed of in a way that is safe for humans and the environment.
The Foundation of Product Stewardship
Thirty or forty years ago, safe transport of products containing chemical ingredients (whether it be furniture, automotive parts or soap) was typically managed by a logistics or warehouse manager—someone who understood transport regulations, but did not necessarily understand the product chemistry, causing them to rely upon chemists for the underlying information needed to prepare properly labeled shipments.
Similarly, other aspects of product stewardship were also fragmented: perhaps an industrial hygienist conducted employee exposure studies, but knew little of the regulations that ultimately drove the communication of this information; a toxicologist was used to conduct a risk assessment, but the toxicologist may have had little awareness of the implication of those results on product packaging or ability to import / export. At some point in the 1990s, it was recognized that one department needed to understand the foundational science of the ingredients and the regulations that governed them. Enter the modern product steward.
Implications for the Supply Chain
Whether you’re trying to develop safer products, more sustainable packaging, or simply trying to avoid the costly re-work and re-design that’s associated with not knowing how the ingredients in your products are regulated globally—a focus on product stewardship is not only good for safety and compliance, but for your company’s bottom line as well. Need help? Have questions? Contact Global Safety Management today!