Equilibrium & Sustainability — Altria

Voters want more protection from harmful chemicals: poll

water fountain
AP Photo/Jim Cole
Water flows from a water fountain at the Boys and Girls Club in Concord, N.H. The state has 469 known PFAS contamination sites.

Most American voters say they want more government and industry protection from toxic chemicals, a new poll has found.

Not only do the 1,200 respondents to the survey overwhelmingly want assurances that consumer products are free from harmful chemicals, but they are also willing to pay more for that reassurance.

In the poll — commissioned by the University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment — 92 percent of voters agreed that the government should require products to be proven safe before reaching the market, while 63 percent strongly agreed.

“People assume that what they buy is safe and that almost always isn’t the case,” Tracey Woodruff, director of the UCSF Reproductive Health program and a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, said in a statement.

“The good news is this survey reveals overwhelming support for the government to do a better job of protecting people from harmful chemicals,” Woodruff added.

Similar to the responses regarding government responsibility, about 93 percent of voters surveyed agreed — and 62 percent strongly agreed — that companies should do a better job of removing harmful chemicals from consumer products, according to the poll.

About 88 percent agreed that companies should do a better job eliminating plastic and plastic packaging from these items, the survey found.

In response to the survey, Chris Jahn, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, which represents major U.S. chemical companies, stressed that “chemicals in commerce are subject to some of the most stringent federal laws and regulations in the world.”

“We support strong science and risk-based regulations that are protective of human health and our environment, including the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) aimed at modernizing and strengthening our federal chemical regulatory system,” Jahn said in an emailed statement.

“Product safety should be a shared objective of all stakeholders, and we recognize and take seriously that consumers want to know that the products they buy are safe,” he added.

Alleging that “some activists will continue to invest in misconstruing facts and misguiding the public,” Jahn said that the chemical sector “is invested in progress and continuous improvement.”

The Washington, D.C.-based public opinion firm Lake Research Partners conducted the poll for UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment — reaching 1,200 voters nationwide May 25-June 5.

Respondents included 800 base voters and included “oversamples of 100 Black registered voters, 100 Latinx registered voters, 100 Asian American Pacific Islander registered voters, and 100 Gen-Z registered voters,” in order to ensure that the results were representative of the broader population, according to the poll.

“At a time when most issues are politically polarized, the issue of keeping people safe from harmful chemicals finds widespread agreement among Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters,” Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, said in a statement.

About 76 percent of respondents expressed concern about the impact chemicals and plastics have on climate change, while 54 percent said that chemical regulations are not strong enough.

Some 89 percent of voters surveyed expressed support for harnessing the Toxic Substances Control Act to make it easier to ban or limit harmful chemicals, according to the poll. Meanwhile, 56 percent conveyed strong support for such action.

The implementation of these limits, the survey said, would aim to better protect vulnerable populations like pregnant women, children and those who reside near polluting factories.

Asked whether it is important to remove harmful chemicals from the areas in which people live, work and learn, 93 percent of respondents agreed and 57 percent strongly agreed — even if doing so would raise the costs of some products. 

—Updated at 12:34 p.m.

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