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California Safer Consumer Products Regulations Due Soon

January 8, 2013

PPRC has been tracking developments in the Safer Consumer Products regulations set for release soon (perhaps January 2013) in California. The goal of the regulation is to identify consumer products containing hazardous chemicals (called “chemicals of concern” or COCs) and encourage manufacturers to make products safer for consumers. Under the regulation, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will identify consumer product-chemical combinations (priority products) which are likely to pose a significant risk to human health or the environment. Smart authors are usually vague on the products DTSC has in mind, but the definition of consumer product is quite broad, so candidates could range from a body lotion with an endocrine-disrupting ingredient to an automobile interior component emitting some toxic constituent.

As currently envisioned, a small number of product-COC combinations, perhaps three-to-five, will be identified for the initial round of assessments. Once identified, all manufacturers of a priority product will be required to quantify the level of COCs in their own product(s) and begin a process to identify safer alternative ingredients. Manufacturers can also choose to eliminate the COC altogether or find a non-chemical approach to achieve the same product function. For example, a toxic flame retardant in a plastic cover could be replaced in future designs with an inherently flame-resistant metal cover.

So, why should businesses in the Northwest care? The law applies to products sold in California regardless of manufacturing origin. Once listed, manufacturers of priority products must respond with required data on chemicals of concern. If manufacturers don’t respond, the role of “responsible entity” travels down the supply chain to either distributors or retailers. It may be easier for retailers to remove a product from their shelves rather than bear the burden of preparing an assessment of alternatives.

DTSC has a website with draft regulation language, technical reviewers comments and a large volume of public comments from stakeholders of all stripes. We’ll be discussing various aspects of the legislation in future blog pieces. For starters, here’s a brief rundown on the chemicals likely to be included in DTSC’s Chemicals of Concern list. Rather than start from scratch with a new process to identify COCs, DTSC is putting together a comprehensive list of toxic chemicals identified by various authoritative bodies, both nationally and internationally. The lists are mostly of two flavors: 1) lists of chemicals selected for their inherent hazard, say carcinogenicity, but also 2) lists based on ecosystem or bio-monitoring, suggestive of human or environmental exposure. By marrying hazard and exposure considerations, DTSC approximates some measure of overall risk without the resource and time intensive process of a full-blown environmental risk assessment.

The hazard-based lists include all the expected bad actors: carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxicants (so-called CMRs) and also several lists of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals (PBTs).  A few of the lists have been controversial, such as a European Commission list of chemicals for evaluation as endocrine disruptors. Some stakeholders have complained that not all the lists have involved proper stakeholder processes during development. All in all, DTSC estimates that the final list will contain around 1200 chemicals. Industry is naturally concerned with the need to analyze and track such a long list. Details on DTSC’s source lists are described in a “Proposed Chemicals Lists” document at: http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/LawsRegsPolicies/Regs/upload/COC-lists-weblinksv2.pdf.

The final details on the COC list must be posted within 30 days of the effective date of the regulation (likely to be January 2013). If your organization utilizes any materials with likely COCs, you should consider what impact the pending regulation may have on your business. Begin conversations with suppliers on disclosure of ingredients and unintended contaminants in your raw materials. Contact PPRC if you have concerns about the pending California legislation, questions about chemicals in your products or processes, or need help communicating with suppliers or customers on chemicals issues.

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