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ACS adds policy statement on safety

New statement reaffirms society’s commitment to chemical safety

by Linda Wang
January 17, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 3

A group of students.
Credit: Caroline Trupp Gil
As part of ACS’s advocacy efforts, students visited federal agencies and members of Congress last October to learn more about the U.S.’s role in international climate change negotiations in preparation for their trip to the 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The American Chemical Society has adopted a new public policy statement on safety in the chemical enterprise. “There has been a lot of urging by the chemistry community for ACS to be more up-front about advocacy for safety,” says John E. Adams, chair of the ACS Committee on Public Affairs & Public Relations (PA&PR), which reviews and approves ACS’s policy statements. “This is a reinforcement of our commitment to safety.”

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Help review expiring statements, offer your thoughts and comments to the ACS committees considering revisions, and provide input on other statements that should be developed or changed at

ACS currently has 27 policy statements, which form the basis for ACS’s advocacy efforts, says Adams. The statements are grouped into four broad categories aimed at fostering innovation through research and technology, strengthening science education and the scientific workforce, advancing science through openness, and promoting science and sustainability in public policy. All statements are available on the ACS website at

“We try to focus on those things where we think we can have the biggest impact and where we feel that we can be an authoritative source of information,” Adams says.

Policy statements are drafted by ACS committees and divisions with input from ACS members and then presented to the Committee on Public Affairs & Public Relations for review. PA&PR can also renew, revise, or retire a statement. Each statement is active for three years before it’s up for review by the ACS Board of Directors.

The new statement on safety in the chemical enterprise, drafted by the society’s Committee on Chemical Safety and the Division on Chemical Health & Safety, supports the use of risk-based criteria in creating safety regulations and policies. It also supports government implementation of regulatory policies that foster innovation within a safer chemical environment.

In addition to adopting the new statement on safety, ACS extended for three years its statements on science education and on employment nondiscrimination, and it updated its statements on forensic science and peer review.

The statement on climate change, which encourages continued funding for research into the effects of climate change and emphasizes the importance of educating the public on the issue, was completely rewritten. “It’s important when you’re doing advocacy in the public policy arena that you have a clear, compelling, concise, and consistent message,” Adams says.

Ray Garant, assistant director of public policy in the ACS Office of External Affairs & Communications, which helps draft the statements, says that despite the uncertainties that the new Trump Administration will bring, “the overall portfolio of what ACS cares about most is still as solid as a rock. What we’ve been advocating for in the last five years is what we need to be advocating for in the next five years.”

One measure of how effective ACS’s policy statements have been can be seen in legislation that is passed. The recent reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, for example, was something that ACS had advocated extensively for. “That was a win as far as we were concerned,” Adams says. Additionally, the new version of the America Competes Act included some provisions supported by ACS.

Adams encourages ACS members to get involved in promoting ACS’s policy initiatives. They can do so nationally through ACS’s legislative network, Act4Chemistry (, or locally through their local section’s government affairs committee.

ACS also hosts an annual Legislative Summit, where members of the ACS Board of Directors visit policy-makers in Washington, D.C. And ACS’s Science & the Congress Project has conducted more than 200 congressional briefings for members of Congress and their staff to gain a greater knowledge of the science involved in numerous public policy issues.

Everyone has a voice, and everyone can make a difference, Adams says. He adds: “I would encourage the entire membership to be active in making sure that science is part of the decision-making process.”

Current ACS policy statements


Energy: Endorses an energy policy that prioritizes energy efficiency and that includes the full life-cycle costs of energy sources in their market prices, including the impacts on human health and the environment. It also encourages long-term orientation for both funding and incentives.

Science & Technology in the Budget: Urges policy-makers to restore investments in federal R&D funding to levels nearer to 1.2% of GDP and recommends strategies to ensure federal dollars dedicated to R&D are used as efficiently as possible.

U.S. Business Climate: Supports a fair and level playing field that enhances competition and stimulates R&D and supports policies that foster the growth of small R&D businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.

U.S. Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Supports investment in a worldclass workforce through education and training, long-term commitments to basic research and technology development, and the development of a sustainable infrastructure for innovation and entrepreneurship.


Disabilities: Supports ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and encourages international cooperation, sharing of scientific knowledge, and R&D on assistive technologies in carrying out the requirement to implement the means for equal access to medical facilities, education, workplaces, and communications technologies.

Employment Nondiscrimination: Recommends federal legislation to extend employment discrimination protection to include sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity.

Health care: Supports health care policies that focus on preventative care, availability and affordability of health plans, universal eligibility, portability of health coverage across state lines, and privacy of medical information.

Importance of Hands-on Laboratory Activities: Supports hands-on activities in education and explores the proper role of computer simulations that mimic laboratory procedures as a useful supplement to them but not a substitute for them.

Retirement Security: Urges Congress to reduce the regulatory complexity of 401(k) plans available to small business owners and promote faster vesting and more portable plans.

Science Education: Supports ensuring that all students understand science in accordance with national standards; modernizing learning environments; strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher education programs; and nurturing students of all backgrounds, including from underrepresented groups, in pursuit of studies and careers in STEM.

Teaching of Evolution: Supports teaching of evolution; opposes alternative, nonscientific theories; and urges states and localities to support high-quality science standards and curricula.

Visa Restrictions: Supports visa policies that facilitate scientific education and exchange and welcome foreign scholars, students, scientists, and engineers. Supports timely and reasonable screening processes for visits, greater transparency of the application process, and the issuance and management of visas that are more aligned with the purpose of academic study and scientific exchange.


Chemical Risk Assessment and Regulatory Decision Making: Supports risk assessments that are based on sound science, that are protective of human health and the environment, and that include necessary information from the commercial chemical enterprise while protecting confidential business information.

Climate Change: Reviews the science and recommends action on greenhouse gas reduction and climate change adaptation strategies. Encourages continued funding for research into the effects of climate change while also emphasizing the importance of educating the public on the issue.

Endocrine Disruption: Endorses expanded funding for the development of more effective tools and methods for diagnostic testing, and also for green chemistry research into functional alternatives.

Inherently Safer Technologies: Endorses federal support for research and development to expand IST options and usage.

Regulation of Laboratory Waste: Reviews the pitfalls of regulations meant for large-scale chemical manufacturing being applied to laboratories.

The Science & Technology of Hydraulic Fracturing: Recommends conducting research on fracking and its impacts from a life-cycle perspective, its uses compared with replacement resources, methane emissions at fracking sites, causes and extent of groundwater contamination, less hazardous fracking fluids, and characterization of and methods for treating and disposing of liquid returns from fracking.

Sustainability of the Chemical Enterprise: Defines the concept of sustainability in the context of the chemical enterprise. Supports government incentives for sustainable technologies.

Water Treatment & Conservation: Supports U.S. government action that develops water-use guidelines and ­initiatives; encourages advancements in water reduction, treatment, and reuse technologies; protects groundwater resources; and prevents discharge of toxic substances into ground and surface waters.


Encouraging Americans to Support Professional & Educational Activities through Financial Donations: Supports tax deductions for charitable contributions and permanent extension of the Individual Retirement Account charitable rollover provisions.

Ensuring Access to High-Quality Science: Supports using sustainable publishing models that provide universal access to scientific research. Supports the 10 principles outlined in the Brussels Declaration on STM (scientific, technical, and medical) Publishing, as set forth by the International Association of STM Publishers.

Forensic Science: Calls for scientific rigor, high-quality education, and standards in forensic science and for its integration with the broader scientific community. Backs evaluation and improvement of forensic analytical methods.

Peer Review—Ensuring High Quality Science: Urges support for scientific peer review processes that evaluate grant applications on the basis of both intellectual merit and broader impacts and are periodically evaluated for process effectiveness and efficiency, and for reviewer freedom from interference in scientific merit assessments.

Safety in the Chemistry Enterprise: Supports the use of risk-based criteria in creating safety regulations and policies, and continued funding of research to inform policy-makers and stakeholders in the creation of those regulations and policies. Also supports government implementation of regulatory policies that foster innovation within a safer chemical environment.

Scientific Freedom: Advocates freedom of scientific exchange and stronger scientific collaboration to benefit humankind.

Scientific Insight & Integrity: Supports the use of insightful, comprehensive, scientific, and engineering input to the development and evaluation of policy options. Encourages scientific integrity policies that help the federal government obtain and integrate scientific assessments into policy development and implementation.


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