How the California Green Chemistry Initiative Will Affect Consumer Product Companies

On March 13, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) took a step toward implementing the California Green Chemistry Initiative (CGCI) by identifying the first three consumer “Priority Products” that will be impacted by the program.

ETT BLOG_sleeping matThe first three Priority Products are (1) children’s foam-padded sleeping products, containing Tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate or TDCPP; (2) spray polyurethane foam-containing unreacted diisocyantes, used in building insulation; and (3) paint and varnish strippers and surface cleaners containing methylene chloride.

DTSC will hold a series of public workshops in May and June to discuss the product-chemical combinations identified on the initial Priority Products list. For dates, times and locations, click here. Additional products will be announced in October, so all companies that sell consumer products in California will need to examine how CGCI will affect their businesses.

The initiative was signed so that instead of banning the use of a chemical without knowing the availability or safety of alternatives, the Safer Consumer Products (SCP) regulations provide a process for manufacturers to see whether the chemical is necessary or if there is a safer alternative to the chemical of concern.

The SCP regulations are part of CGCI to reduce public and environmental exposure to toxins through improved knowledge and regulation of chemicals.  CGCI has four components: (1) DTSC’s identification of “Candidate Chemicals”; (2) DTSC’s identification of Priority Products containing those Candidate Chemicals; (3) responsible entity (manufacturer, importers, assemblers, or retailers) notification and alternative analysis; and (4) DTSC’s imposition of regulatory responses to address hazards of the product or alternatives.

The announcement of the three product groups as proposed Priority Products does not trigger any duty on product manufacturers until the DTSC finalizes the list of Priority Products by adopting regulations.  However, manufacturers should be proactive and take steps to determine whether Candidate Chemicals can be removed from their products or replaced with safer alternative chemicals.  DTSC expects to initiate rulemaking to codify the initial Priority Products list in regulations in the latter part of 2014, a process that may take up to one year.  Once a Priority Product is formally listed, responsible entities must notify DTSC within 60 days if they manufacture, assemble, import, or sell one of the Priority Products, and then prepare an alternatives analysis within 180 days.

DTSC will enforce SCP regulations primarily through publication of noncompliant responsible entities and products on its website, but it may also initiate enforcement actions under the hazardous waste provisions of the California Health & Safety Code, which authorizes criminal and civil penalties. It may be costly for businesses to meet the requirements of this new regulation in terms of compliance and responding to enforcement.  SCP regulations also present obstacles for protection of proprietary information because they require public disclosure and industry reporting.

Image courtesy of Vermont Public Interest Research Group

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