Toxics and Pollution Prevention Evaluation

Hazardous waste barrelHazardous chemicals are used in our manufacturing processes, in packaging, and in the products we use. These chemicals can cause concern to humans and the environment when we are exposed to them.

Minnesota’s policy is to eliminate or reduce at the source, the use, generation or release of toxic pollutants and hazardous wastes. The MPCA works to address the challenges our use of chemicals creates by:

  • Working with manufacturers to find ways to reduce chemical waste or avoid the use of toxic chemicals in the production process.
  • Working with companies to find ways to reduce or avoid the use of toxic chemicals in the products they make and ensure those products are properly managed at the end of their useful lives.

Toxics and Pollution Prevention Evaluation Report

This report is prepared every four years to share the state’s progress in pollution prevention programs and activities, including: 

  • Activities related to Priority Chemicals, as defined in the Minnesota Toxic Free Kids Act
  • Electronics recycling
  • Architectural paint product stewardship
  • Toxics in packaging

This report also offers recommendations to reduce toxic chemical content in products sold and used in Minnesota.

Most recent report

PDF icon Toxics and Pollution Prevention Evaluation Report (lrp-p2s-2sy17)

Why this work is important

Hazardous chemicals are used in our manufacturing processes, in packaging, and in the products we use. These chemicals can cause concern to humans and the environment when we are exposed to them.

Minnesota’s policy is to eliminate or reduce at the source, the use, generation or release of toxic pollutants and hazardous wastes. The MPCA works to address the challenges our use of chemicals creates by:

  • Working with manufacturers to find ways to reduce chemical waste or avoid the use of toxic chemicals in the production process.
  • Working with companies to find ways to reduce or avoid the use of toxic chemicals in the products they make and ensure those products are properly managed at the end of their useful lives.

Our knowledge about the hazards posed to people and the environment from toxic chemicals, even at low levels, is changing rapidly, which makes it sensible to take opportunities to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals through pollution prevention.

Air, water, and soil samples show the unintended presence of toxic chemicals due to human activity and investigation of children’s products and personal care products have found multiple examples where levels of toxic chemicals have violated state statutes.

What MPCA is doing

Addressing toxics in products

Mercury is being found in cosmetic products in Minnesota, specifically skin-lightening creams sold in ethnic markets in the Twin Cities area. These products are both illegal to sell in Minnesota and pose a health threat to those who use them. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage both the brain and central nervous system and can also cause kidney damage. A multi-agency outreach and education effort has been undertaken, but more work needs to be done to curtail demand for these products.

The Minnesota Chemicals in Products Interagency Team (CPIT), made up of representatives of the Department of Commerce, Department of Health and the Pollution Control Agency, under a limited budget, has been conducting product testing to encourage compliance with the state’s statutes restricting toxic chemicals in children’s products. This effort identified a children’s product where formaldehyde was used as a preservative and the manufacturer subsequently reformulated the product to substitute a safer preservative. Also found were samples of children’s jewelry that contained extremely high levels of cadmium, a toxic metal that had been purchased online. The retailer issued recalls and provided refunds to purchasers and the listings for these products were removed from the web site through which they had been purchased. These findings have prompted the recommendation to provide dedicated funding to expanding Commerce, Health and MPCA’s oversight of Minnesota’s product restriction statutes, with an emphasis on protecting the safety of children and other vulnerable subpopulations.

Electronics recycling

Legislative changes to the Minnesota Electronics Recycling Act were enacted in July 2016 to address the gap between the amount of electronics collected for recycling and the manufacturer obligation to purchase “covered electronic devices” (CEDs). Early results suggest these changes are helping to narrow that gap.

Products made from recycled plastics from e-wastes are showing detectable levels of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), which are linked to a myriad of health effects. Some companies are voluntarily redesigning products to reduce the need for BFRs, but additional research and stakeholder input is needed to answer questions about when a product is too toxic to recycle and how to drive better product design.

Another emerging issue: With the rapid growth in solar panel installation, how will non-working panels be managed at end of life? The MPCA will work with the Public Utilities Commission and Department of Commerce to analyze issues related to identifying and planning for the optimal management of decommissioned solar panels.

Past reports