I’ve been thinking about the idea of chemical sunsetting (ie, the phasing out of certain harmful substances – see the POPs list for example). When getting rid of one substance, do you automatically replace it with something else? And if so, do you conduct an alternatives assessment to make sure the replacement is not equally bad? OR, as an alternative to that scenario, can something be “sunset” and not replaced? Can we live with less?
As new toxins are “discovered” in the midst of our daily lives (discovered here means covered by the media*), will consumers demand more “sunsets” of toxic substances? When one plastic item (say, toy jewelry) is found to contain lead, and then the supplier responds by switching to another heavy metal like cadmium, will the consumer at some point decide they don’t need plastic jewelry for their children?
2011 is the UN-designated “International Year of Chemistry.” I salute the green chemists out there and hope that 2011 will be a great year for advancing greener products, discovering alternatives to toxic substances, and finding uses of more natural (non-synthetic) materials. I also hope it will be a great year for realizing that we can all probably use less stuff.
*In the absence of regulation for transparent labeling for many types of products, it often takes the media to uncover or “out” the substances. Toys do not come with a nutrition label, nor do many of the other items we come into contact with every day.