Toxic Substances:

Advantages of and Barriers to Reducing the Use of Toxic Chemicals

RCED-92-212: Published: Jun 17, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 22, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the economic and environmental advantages of reducing the use of toxic chemicals; (2) barriers to firms reducing their use of toxic chemicals; and (3) state actions to encourage firms to reduce their use of toxic chemicals.

GAO found that: (1) reductions in the production and use of toxic chemicals can reduce the risk of adverse health and environmental effects, in addition to creating such economic advantages as reductions in costs for waste disposal and control and raw materials; (2) firms can also incur expenses by changing their production processes to improve efficiency or by purchasing substitute chemicals; (3) firms have tried to comply with federal and state pollution laws by controlling their releases of toxic chemicals, rather than by changing their production processes; (4) small- and medium-sized firms often lack the capital to acquire technology to reduce their use of toxics; (5) 10 states have enacted laws to promote reductions in the use of toxic chemicals; (6) state measures include developing toxic use reduction plans for industrial facilities, providing technical assistance, and establishing reporting systems; and (7) industry officials generally did not favor external reporting of toxics use reduction because of their concerns over proprietary data.