The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has launched the first step in California’s pioneering Safer Consumer Products (SCP) Initiative by publishing a list of chemicals that will be used to identify and eventually reformulate consumer products that are a potential threat to public health and the environment.
Under the new regulations, the Department will develop a set of products, called “priority products,” that contain one of about 150 toxic chemicals included on the list. Manufacturers of priority products will be asked to evaluate the design of these products and to replace these chemicals with safer alternatives if feasible.
Five years in the making, the Safer Consumer Products initiative is a significant shift toward a more protective, economically viable approach in the way California ensures the safety of consumer products. And it provides an opportunity for innovative California industries to capitalize on the growing consumer demand for products that are safer and better for the environment.
The initiative, the first of its kind in the United States, is an integral part of the Brown Administration’s commitment to environmental protection and expanded business opportunities.
The Safer Consumer Products initiative goes into effect October 1, 2013, and DTSC will phase it in slowly.
By April 2014, DTSC will select up to five priority products based upon such factors as the extent of their use, the potential for public exposure to the toxic ingredient, and how the products eventually are disposed. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide input on DTSC’s selection of specific priority products since the selection will be finalized via the regulation adoption process.
Companies that want to sell these “priority products” in California will then perform “alternative assessments” to determine if viable safer versions are available.
“The program starts out small, but it sends a big message,” said Debbie Raphael, DTSC Director. “Innovative and forward-thinking companies will realize the opportunities for growth that stem from this cutting-edge regulation. Smart businesses are already planning ahead, looking for alternative chemicals they can promote as less-toxic, family friendly and environmentally safe.”
Today’s announcement of the chemical list was made at Hero Arts Inc., a family-run manufacturer of stamping and card-making supplies that has eliminated toxic chemicals from its processes. The company is known for its green practices, including getting its power from a 68-kilowatt solar array, requiring vendors to sign a green pledge, and hand-making its stamps using North American maple from sustainably managed forests.
Aaron Leventhal, Chief Executive Officer of Hero Arts, applauded the new regulation. “The reality is this Safer Consumer Products regulation is exactly the role government should play, and is one of the best ways it can help business” Leventhal said. “Such regulations can clarify an otherwise turbulent landscape, create rules that businesses can rely on and reduce long-term risk. This is a proposal that speaks to the future.”
Demand for green products has increased as consumers become more aware of potential adverse effects on health and the environment.
“This program represents a victory for public health,” said Gretchen Lee Salter of the Breast Cancer Fund. “For too long, toxic chemicals have been used in everyday products with no accountability. While there is still much work to be done, this is a big step for California and we look forward to working with the administration and the legislature to ensure the program lives up to its potential.”
John Ulrich, executive director of the Chemical Industry Council of California, also welcomed the new initiative.
“These hazard- and exposure-based regulations have the potential to motivate forward-leaning companies to make already safe products even safer, and simultaneously to focus on consumer products that truly pose significant or widespread adverse impacts for Californians,” Ulrich said. “CICC is proud of its contributions to this effort and proud to have been invited to participate in an event marking the conclusion of this grueling regulatory development phase. We now stand ready to assist the implementation phase and help to further integrate ‘green chemistry’ into the world of chemical regulation.”
What is the Safer Consumer Products (SCP) Program?
The Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC) Safer Consumer Products regulations take effect October 1, 2013 and will be phased in over the next several years to coordinate with the timing of the various regulatory requirements.
The goals of this program are to reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products, create new business opportunities in the emerging safer consumer products economy, and reduce the burden on consumers and businesses struggling to identify what’s in the products they buy for their families and customers.
To accomplish these goals, the SCP Program will rely on reports submitted by responsible entities, such as the manufacturer, to inform and increase the use of safer chemicals in products, homes, schools, and workplaces, which produce significant environmental and economic benefits.
By shifting the question of an ingredient’s toxicity to the product development stage, concerns can be addressed early on. The approach results in safer ingredients and designs, and provides an opportunity for California industry to once again demonstrate its innovative spirit by making products that meet consumer demand throughout the world.
What are the Safer Consumer Products Regulations?
The California legislature passed the Green Chemistry Law in 2008 which authorizes and requires DTSC to adopt regulations to establish a process to identify and prioritize chemicals in consumer products and to establish a process for evaluating chemicals of concern in consumer products and their potential alternatives.
Summary of the Proposed Safer Consumer Products Regulations
The regulations provide for a four-step continuous, science-based, iterative process to identify safer consumer product alternatives:
- Chemicals – The regulations establish an immediate list of Candidate Chemicals (~1,200) based on the work already done by other authoritative organizations, and specify a process for DTSC to identify additional chemicals as Candidate Chemicals (CCs).
- Products – The regulations require DTSC to evaluate and prioritize product/Candidate Chemical combinations to develop a list of “Priority Products” for which Alternatives Analyses must be conducted. A Candidate Chemical that is the basis for a product being listed as a Priority Product is designated as a Chemical of Concern (COC) for that product and any alternative considered or selected to replace that product.
- Alternatives Analysis – The regulations require responsible entities (manufacturers, importers, assemblers, and retailers) to notify DTSC when their product is listed as a Priority Product. DTSC will post this information on its web site. Manufacturers (or other responsible entities) of a product listed as a Priority Product must perform an Alternatives Analysis (AA) for the product and the COCs in the product to determine how best to limit exposures to, or the level of adverse public health and environmental impacts posed by, the COCs in the product.
- Regulatory Responses – The regulations require DTSC to identify and require implementation of regulatory responses designed to protect public health and/or the environment, and maximize the use of acceptable and feasible alternatives of least concern. DTSC may require regulatory responses for a Priority Product (if the manufacturer decides to retain the Priority Product), or for an alternative product selected to replace the Priority Product.
What are the goals of the Safer Consumer Products Regulations and Program?
DTSC’s Safer Consumer Products Regulations aim to create safer substitutes for hazardous ingredients in consumer products sold in California. The regulations emphasize safer products and healthier lives by reducing and eliminating use of toxic chemicals.
What is the timeframe for implementation of the Safer Consumer Products Program?
Timeframe for Implementation Milestones
- Initial Candidate Chemical list → Effective date of the regulations
- First “Proposed” Priority Products list → 180 days after the regulations effective date
- First Priority Products list finalized → Requires rulemaking (may take up to one year)
- Priority Product Notification → 60 days after listing on final Priority Products list
- Preliminary AA Report → due to DTSC 180 days after listing on final Priority Products list
- Final AA Report → due to DTSC 1 year after the notice of compliance for the Preliminary AA Report
- Regulatory Response Implementation → To be specified by DTSC in the regulatory response determination
How are the Safer Consumer Products Regulations related to the Green Chemistry Law?
In 2008, Assembly Bill 1879 (Chapter 559, Feuer) and Senate Bill 509 (Chapter 560, Simitian), were signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger to implement two key recommendations of the California Green Chemistry Initiative Final Report: acceleration of the quest for safer products, and creation of an online toxics clearinghouse. These two legislative bills comprise the Green Chemistry Law. Assembly Bill 1879 mandated the Safer Consumer Products Regulations and authorized the implementation of the Safer Consumer Products Program. Senate Bill 509 mandated the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to specify hazard traits, environmental and toxicological endpoints and other relevant data to be included in the Toxics Information Clearinghouse.
The regulations and the authorizing statutes (Health and Safety Code sections 25252 and 25253), are intended to implement recommendation #5 of the California Green Chemistry Initiative Final Report—Accelerate the Quest for Safer Products, and, thus, create a systematic, science-based process to evaluate chemicals of concern, and identify safer alternatives to ensure product safety.