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Company: Becton, Dickinson
Subject: BFRs in Products
Year: 2006
Sector: Electronics Retail/Manufacture
Lead Filer: Domini Social Investments
Cofiler(s): Trinity Health, Boston Common Asset Management, LLC, Brethren Benefit Trust, Inc., Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc.
Outcome: Vote: 8.7%

Annual Meeting: Tuesday January 31, 2006

Whereas:

Becton, Dickinson and Company is a leader in technologies geared toward measurement of biological processes to advance human health.

Some products, including those used in health care, can be sources of toxic chemicals released into the environment and subsequently ingested, inhaled, or otherwise absorbed by people, resulting in measurable levels of those chemicals in blood or breast milk.

Persistent and bioaccumulative toxic chemicals (PBTs). including some brominated flame retardants (BFRs), are of particular concern. BFRS are used primarily in textiles, foams and plastics, including electronic products used in health care.

People in the U.S. have been exposed to some of the world's highest levels of certain polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)—a BFR subset. In animal studies that experts consider relevant to developing human infants and young children PBDEs can impair normal brain development and permanently impact learning and memory. Some women in the US have PBDE levels nearly as high as those that caused impaired brain development in animal studies.

State, national and international policies are beginning to phase out the most toxic chemicals. For example, five US states and the European Union have committed to phasing out certain PBDEs in products.

Although our company's policies call for design of “health, safety and environmental protection into all of our products and services” we lack a specific policy to eliminate all BFRs and other PBTs in our products.

Our products will be measured against emerging standards—and could be barred from markets if they contain substances targeted by phaseouts.

RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board publish by October 2006, at reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, a report evaluating the company's policies on BFRs and other internationally recognized toxic chemicals of concern, including the status of the chemicals in company products, and a plan to revise policies and practices and to phase out the uses of target chemicals.

Supporting Statement

According to a recent report (http://rosefdn.org/liroffreport.pdf), “safe alternatives” policies have been adopted by some leading corporations. The proponents believe an effective Becton, Dickinson and Co. policy should achieve the following:

  1. Using recognized governmental lists, inventory chemicals of concern in products that are suspected of being toxic to living things, persisting in the environment, or bioaccumulating in humans.
  2. Provide for an ongoing review of safer materials and chemicals to promote substitution of effective, cost-competitive alternatives as they become available.
  3. Develop goals, plans and timelines to substitute safer chemicals, giving priority to compounds internationally recognized as most toxic, including persistent bioaccumulative toxics, very persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals, and other chemicals of high concern, including BFRs, without requiring proof of harm at current exposure levels before undertaking substitution.
  4. Communicate company chemicals policies, goals and lists to vendors, with inducements to adopt safer alternatives.
  5. Establish a goal to gain complete safety information on chemicals used in our products.
  6. Effectively disclose, in catalogues and product labels, chemicals in our products presenting issues of toxicity, persistence and/or bioaccumulation.


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