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Green Seal stands solidly behind revised GS-37 Standard

October 2, 2008
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Washington, DC - October 6, 2008. Green Seal certified products are increasingly used in schools and more and more cleaning chemicals are demonstrated to contribute to health and environmental problems. Updating the Green Seal standard for the cleaners used in schools and other institutional settings (GS-37) involved careful consideration of vulnerable populations needs. Given the significance of GS-37 and the controversy that surrounds all chemical restrictions, Green Seal anticipated that consensus might not be achieved in its Scope of Work issued to all stakeholders early in the 21-month-long process. Early documents in the revision process also set out the rationale for special consideration of children, in particular, because of their sensitivity to chemical exposures and the many ways in which they may be affected during their developmental stages.

Green Seal strictly adhered to the ISO standard that govern such standard development: ISO 14020 Environmental labels and declarations - General principles and ISO 14024 Environmental labels and declarations: Type I environmental labeling - Principles and procedures.

The process to develop the GS-37 standard was open and transparent. All interested parties were allowed to participate in the public review period and given several opportunities to register as a stakeholder for more active involvement throughout the process. Project progress and discussion were continually accessible through several electronic means (e.g., Web site, on-line forum, and e-mail). Discussions were also conducted through teleconferences with open participation. In addition, draft language on specific issues was provided to interested parties to further enable discussions.

The ISO standards also require that the criteria of an ecolabeling standard be based on sound scientific and engineering principles and be derived from data that support the claim of environmental preferability. The GS-37 revision process provided a clear rationale for each criterion in all the support documents. It was recognized that a conventional risk assessment approach is not sufficient for an environmental leadership standard - which attempts to promote the safest alternatives, not to set so-called safe limits for questionable chemicals - it also inappropriate for protecting vulnerable populations that are not considered in standard risk assessment methodologies. Even though some trade associations oppose the viewpoint on using a hazard-based (vs. risk assessment) approach to protect vulnerable populations, other stakeholders fully supported this approach, and yet others felt that potentially more could be done. As a result, the ballot was nearly split, with only a few specific issues with sustained opposition. It was Green Seal's task, supported by RESOLVE and the Stakeholder and Executive Committees, to sort through these differing viewpoints and the available science to create a strengthened standard that would ensure the protection of vulnerable populations and the environment.

While Green Seal strived to reach consensus and took reasonable efforts to achieve consensus, it has long recognized that it is difficult to do so for environmental leadership standards that, by definition, exclude the majority of products in a market and potentially a number of manufacturers that cannot meet the standard. It is therefore no coincidence that seven trade associations object to the standard, as they are constituted to uphold the interests of all their members and members' products. “With the extensive and intensive process involved in revising GS-37,” Dr. Arthur B. Weissman, President and CEO, of Green Seal, Inc, believes “One could fairly say that Green Seal went above and beyond this requirement and in fact made extraordinary efforts to achieve consensus.”

In the final analysis, the success of the revision of GS-37 will be measured by the extent to which it changes the market of cleaning products to make them more protective of human health, including vulnerable populations such as children, and the environment. “We regret that some are unable to support the revised GS-37,” says Dr. Weissman, “[But] we trust that government agencies that are charged with protecting the health of their citizens will choose to support a standard that protects the rights of children over the rights of chemicals, and anticipate that many progressive manufacturers will see the benefit of conforming with a leadership standard that promotes more sustainable cleaning products that will ensure a healthier, cleaner environment for all.”

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