Bill to ban chemicals goes to Governor

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Sept. 12, 2008 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Of all the bills to ban or restrict chemicals introduced this year, SB 1313 (Ellen Corbett, D-Fremont), appeared to be the least likely to make it to the Governor’s desk.  The bill prohibits the manufacturing, sale or distribution of any food contact substance that contains perfluorinated compounds in excess of 10 parts per billion.  

This bill grew out of a union organizing dispute at a DuPont facility, one of the primary manufacturers of perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA).  If it wasn’t for union backing, this bill would have met the same fate as all of the other unscientific and unnecessary chemical and product restriction bills.

Product and chemical restrictions in manufacturing and sales were opposed because there was no scientific justification for it.  A credible link has never been found between perfluorinated compounds and a human health hazard.  In addition, laboratories are unable to reliably test paper for perfluorinated compounds down to the level stipulated in the bill.  

Not one state or country in the world (including the European Union) has banned PFOA, the primary focus of this bill.

The Environmental Working Group has twice petitioned Cal-EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to place PFOA on an expedited docket (once as a carcinogen and then again as a reproductive toxin) and twice OEHHA, after significant review, decided that it was not warranted.  

If the Governor signs this bill, it could start a precedent for the legislature to second-guess future decisions by OEHHA, the governmental body with the most scientific experience to handle such questions.

Eight PFOA manufacturers signed a voluntary agreement with the US-EPA to systematically phase out PFOAs by 2015 and they are well on their way toward accomplishing that goal.  Shortening the deadline to 2010 will mean that well-tested and FDA-approved alternatives will not be available for all applications.  Moreover, this will have a chilling effect on companies who may consider being proactive in the future.

Banning this substance at this time will also have a detrimental effect on chemical industry jobs in California.  California companies could not make these chemicals and sell them to other US states or countries around the world where PFOAs are legal.  

Two other "green chemistry" bills, AB 1879 (Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles) and SB 509 (Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto), passed the legislature with bi-partisan support because legislators agreed that scientists, not politicians, should be making decisions on chemical risk, bans and restrictions.  SB 1313 contradicts that premise.  The Governor and his Administration need to send a strong message to the legislature that scientists are better-suited to make decisions on the operations of green chemistry programs and which chemicals need restrictions.

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