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The common protest against increased or improved chemical regulation is that tighter regulations will restrict innovation and create an economic burden. Indeed, much has already been written about the resources required for U.S. companies to comply with the European Union’s Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) regulation. However, new research out today from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a nonprofit environmental law organization based in DC and Geneva, indicates that chemical regulation may actually have an upside for businesses as well.

“It creates a market for green chemistry,” says CIEL’s Baskut Tuncak, who authored the study, entitled  Driving Innovation: How stronger laws help bring safer chemicals to market. Tuncak cites the number of patents for alternative chemicals filed every time there’s new chemical regulation as evidence of the innovation spurred by regulation. “And not just for small ‘green chemistry’ companies, either, the big guys like Dow and Exxon Mobilfile more patents than anyone.”

In fact, Tuncak points out, some big businesses are calling for improved U.S. regulation to help level the playing field between those who are leading in green chemistry innovation and those who are not, and between those who have been forced to switch to alternatives in order to do business in Europe and those who have not. During a recent U.S. Senate hearing on the need for stricter chemical regulation in the United States, a spokesperson for S.C. Johnson said: “We believe it is essential for the U.S. chemical management system to keep pace with global developments…and that our government be a global leader in chemical regulatory policy.”

Some chemical manufacturers would like to see standard international regulations governing chemicals, as well. Ronald Drews, vice president for chemical regulations and trade control at German chemical giant BASF, recently said, “it would be very helpful if we could take our [chemical registration information required under EU regulations] and give it to Chinese authorities.”

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