Toxics & Health Overview

Our health and environment can be negatively impacted by the products we purchase and use. We can also be exposed to potentially harmful substances in the workplace, in our homes and in our streets, parks and public places.  Improper disposal of products at the end of their useful life can also result in negative impacts on our health and environment.

There are three stages that products go through.  The first is the development, production, and sale of the product.  The second is the use of the product.  The final stage is the disposition of the product after use, through recycling or proper disposal.

Helping our residents, visitors and businesses have information and access to the safest alternatives is a prime goal for SF Environment. This begins with supporting Green Chemistry policies on the state and federal level, to help ensure that safer alternatives are introduced and used in products brought into the marketplace.

SF Environment promotes the use of the best alternative, which starts with the question – is the product needed at all?  If it is, what is the best available choice? The City’s Precautionary Purchasing Ordinance requires that the City seek out safer alternatives when purchasing products and services.  City departments are required to buy from an approved list of environmentally preferable products and services, established by SF Environment in consultation with users of the products.  City Departments are also required, under the Integrated Pest Management Ordinance, to use the least toxic pest management methods.

In addition to assisting City Departments in making better choices, SF Environment provides information to residents and businesses to help them in their purchasing decisions.  This starts with making the product catalog used by City departments available to the public at www.sfapproved.org. We also provide information and access to product information for the public and businesses.

In order to help residents and visitors identify and patronize greener businesses, the San Francisco Green Business Program www.sfgreenbusiness.org helps businesses implement environmentally responsible practices and recognizes them for their efforts.

Exposure to chemicals at work can be a major health issue. SF Environment has worked with janitorial workers on greener cleaning, provided incentives to cleaning businesses to help them purchase less harmful Wet Clean equipment and set up a recognition program for nail salons to use safer nail polishes.

SF Environment promotes more sustainable end of life options for products. This starts with promoting producer responsibility so that manufacturers take responsibility for their products at the end of life rather than leaving the environmental and fiscal burden completely in the hands of municipalities and ratepayers.

Promoting curbside and drop-off alternatives, with a focus on convenience, recycling and safety, is the final step in protecting our health and environment.