What is ecosystem toxicity?
Ecosystem toxicity is defined as the potential of a chemical released into the environment to cause harm to plants or animals, including humans. These chemicals can be found in many products purchased by consumers, including cleaners, solvents, and yard and garden pesticides. The Index shows how consumer purchasing patterns and habits are affecting ecosystem toxicity.
The Consumer Ecosystems Toxicity Index looks at the pollution caused during the manufacture, use, and end-of-life phases for all goods and services purchased in Washington State by individual consumers. It measures pollution from everyday products that we don't normally think of as being toxic, such as clothing and food, or home-use products that can commonly have toxic components like pesticides, paint, and household cleaners. Regardless of what these products actually contain, there may be potentially harmful materials used in their production; for example the application of pesticides on cotton that is then used to make clothing, or fuels needed to power farm machinery.
The aggregate ecosystem toxicity effects measured by this indicator appear to have leveled out, or even begun to decline, between 2006 and 2007, after rising steadily between 2000 and 2006. This increase was primarily due to an increase in purchases of products that have a higher rate of emissions related to the manufacturing of those products. Hopefully, this trend will continue to decline in the future.
Environmental emissions are generated in our state, other areas of the country, and abroad. Many of the products purchased in this state originate abroad, but since data is not available for emissions associated with manufacturing in other countries, the indicator measures only emissions generated from manufacturing within the United States.
Why should we be concerned about our state's Ecosystem Toxicity Index?
Healthy thriving ecosystems are vital to support life. The eco-toxicity of hundreds of substances can have negative effects on flora, fauna, and human health.
What are the benefits of reducing the ecosystem toxicity of consumer purchases?
- Reduced risk to human health and the environment
- Reduced costs for managing toxic substances
- Prevention of costs associated with future cleanups
- Increased recyclability of products
What are actions being taken to decrease ecosystem toxicity of consumer products?
- Encouraging governments to lead by example and purchase environmentally preferable products to increase demand
- Supporting product stewardship efforts, which encourage manufacturers to make less toxic products
- Promoting the use of safer chemical alternatives
- Actively pushing for changes to federal regulations to better control the use of toxic substances