Oklahoma is derived from the Choctaw Indian words "okla" meaning people and "humma" meaning red. Oklahoma is my home. Tinctoria is Latin, meaning to dye or color things; this is my work.

04 February 2010


Above is our chemical world on a grid, a map of sorts. Although everything is made up of some combination of elements on the Periodic Table, it does not reveal the breakdown of health, safety and the environmental hazards once the chemical cocktails start flowing. We are increasingly immersed in a toxic world with strange hybrids of "natural" and "synthetic" and few of us can make sense of it all. The questions quickly become daunting and at the very least confusing: what is "natural" or what is "synthetic"? and on and on. Perhaps this is a difficult subject to tackle or define and it definitely is a gigantic can of worms to open but let the discussion begin...

Following are the definitions for CHEMICAL from the Oxford American Dictionary:

adj. “of or relating to chemistry or the interactions of substances as studied in chemistry

n. “a compound or substance that has been purified or prepared, esp. artificially

In short, chemicals are everywhere and they make up the planet we live on. Chemical compounds create the beauty we see in natural colors and they also create the horrors of the current environmental and health devastations we are experiencing. Governmental chemical legislation and political action remain extremely important. To date, the European Union has the most progressive governmental action facing the challenge of reigning in the current chemical world market.

REACH, the Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals, proposed in October 2003 by the EU and voted into legislation became effective June 2007. It is administered by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). It is the most progressive chemical management law to take effect anywhere in the world. Although REACH is an EU law it will send international waves regarding the management and manufacturing of chemicals. Prior to REACH consumers had little access to information about the products they use and what the unknown hazards may be. This lack of knowledge is called "information asymmetry" by Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner and author of Globalization and Its Discontents. REACH is making its mark on chemical history and on the chemical industry and will potentially change the way consumers consider the products they buy.

To summarize (please see Resources and Bibliography for specifics), REACH requires the following information for chemicals produced in or imported into EU:
1. CSR's or Chemical Safety Reports
2. Exposure information
3. Registration of each chemical produced or imported
4. Inventories of chemicals on the market in EU
5. Some new testing requirements
6. Specific focus on carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxins requiring authorization from a scientific panel for further use

Never in chemical history has there been a government action requiring identification of safety risks, exposures and hazards of chemicals in everyday products that are found in food, textiles, cosmetics, electronics, furniture, basically everything everyone uses everyday. REACH will focus special attention on CMR's which are carcinogenic, mutagen, and reproductive toxins, the chemicals which are potentially the most hazardous to health and environment. It will share the information collected on a website which will be accessible to everyone, making the chemical producers more transparent about the products they put on the market. The responsibility to demonstrate safety now falls on the chemical producers and manufacturers. These laws are required for all EU chemical companies and also for any company wanting to participate in Europe's multi- billion dollar market. 

REACH has challenged new international standards for the management of chemicals, far exceeding those of TSCA, Toxic Substances and Control Act, effective in the US in 1977. Although TSCA set the global environmental standard at the time, the reality is that it grandfathered in over 60,000 chemicals already on the market, hence never demanding they meet the standards of any new chemicals on the market (Schapiro, 137). The US market has produced a total of 5 new chemicals since 1977! In addition, REACH also addresses the complete "life cycle" of products containing chemicals which includes waste and disposal costs and downstream product manufacturers to know what chemicals are going into the products they produce.

Companies buy the chemicals they "need" based on function, price and performance. With REACH these same chemical companies are now required to factor in the hazardous aspects of their products. The EU had chosen to look forward and be cautious about existing and potential hazards. They have stepped forward and begun to identify the problems to rising health care costs, ecological implications of hazardous chemicals and increased energy consumption and to find solutions that give their citizens choices.

REACH has also energized the field of green chemistry by creating legal and financial incentives for businesses to find alternatives for the toxic and potentially harmful chemicals being used today. By making toxicity data available to everyone the incentive for new research and innovation increases global competition and overall chemical awareness. Visit The Green Chemistry and Commerce Council for more information: http://www.greenchemistryandcommerce.org/home.php

Tighter regulations of chemical management in the world’s marketplace can improve our environment and our health. And if new scientific areas like green chemistry are given the resources to develop alternatives to the toxic chemicals that are in use now, then we can potentially live in a healthier world.

All of us should consider and evaluate our chemical inventories, our environment and assess our waste products. It is always good to start local.



1. “Spheres of Influence, Chemical Reaction: The U.S. Response to REACH” by Harvey Black, Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 116, No.3, March 2008, pages A125-A127. Accessed 2 February 2010:

2. Schapiro, Mark. Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT, 2007.

3. http://www.chemicalspolicy.org/home.php, accessed 2 February 2010:

4. EUROPA Press Releases, “New European Chemicals Agency start operations as REACH enters into force”, Brussels, 1 June 2007, Reference: IP/07/745. Accessed 3 Feb 2010:

5. European Commission environmental Directorate General, “REACH in brief”, October 2007. Accessed 3 Feb 2010:

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