Gino DiCaro

Straw proposal on green chemistry released

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, Oct. 23, 2009 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

On October 1, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) released their second "Straw Proposal for Safer Alternative Regulations" as a starting point for Green Chemistry implementation.  They were careful to note that the document should not be considered draft regulations.

The proposal applies a very broad definition to consumer products, including almost all products commercially sold in California.  Only food, pesticides, prescription drugs, durable medical goods, dental amalgams and mercury lighting are exempt.  DTSC also chose to include chemicals used in the workplace whether or not they are present in the finished product.

The product categories included in the Straw Proposal are:

  1. Products designed for use by infants or children
  2. Products designed for use in K-12 schools
  3. Clothing, linen and textiles
  4. Furnishings including, but not limited to, mattresses, sofas, chairs, tables
  5. Cleaning products including, but not limited to, soaps and laundry detergents
  6. Products designed to release fragrance or scent during use
  7. Products designed to dispense, store or prepare food
  8. Products designed for application directly in or to the human body.
  9. Products designed, or reasonably anticipated, to release any chemicals during intended use by consumers or after disposal (automobile brake pads, automobile tires, fireplace logs, glues, adhesives, and solvents, for example)

In addition, included are products containing any of the 16 named chemicals in the proposal, as well as products containing chemicals restricted by an authoritative body, foreign or domestic, that allows public comment and publishes results.  There is no distinction made between intentionally-added versus unintentionally-added chemicals, no exemption for exposure below a risk level, and no de minimus exclusions.  The scope of the program captures in the neighborhood of 10,000 chemicals and a 100,000 products.

Retailers will be required to demand that their suppliers (manufacturers) certify that their products do not contain chemicals of concern or possess specified hazardous traits. 

Manufacturers will have one year to generate data or collect documentation sufficient to determine if the chemicals or chemical ingredients in their products fit into any of the hazard categories specified in the Straw Proposal.  The hazard categories listed are: toxicity (acute, target organ–single or repeat exposure, acute aquatic), serious eye damage, germ cell mutagenicity, genetic toxicity, reproductive toxicity, carcinogenicity, endocrine disruption, respiratory sensitization, skin sensitization, bioaccumulation, and hazardous to the stratospheric ozone layer.

Manufacturers of products that do exhibit any of these characteristics will be required to conduct an alternatives analysis, identify alternatives and compare hazard categorization of their product and potential functional alternatives.  If their analysis shows no viable alternative, the manufacturer would be required to document their findings, identify an appropriate response action, notify DTSC and repeat an alternative analysis within two years.  The manufacturer is not forced to substitute an alternative, but if they don’t within 10 years, the product is thereafter banned. 

There are a number of other aspects of this proposal in relationship to life cycle analysis, potential response actions, and transparency. 

This program is designed to be self-implementing and require minimal regulatory oversight from DTSC.  The list of products will also be reviewed every two years for additions.

On October 14, the Green Ribbon Science Advisory Panel convened and expressed a great deal of skepticism about this plan.  Established by law, the Panel is made up of experts to provide advice on scientific matters, chemical policy recommendations and implementation strategies. The Panel’s directive is to ensure that implementation efforts are based on a strong scientific foundation.

Some panel members commented that the program would be extremely costly and that it was so broad it would prove unworkable.  There were many comments suggesting that DTSC needed to play a bigger part in making decisions and approving actions, and that more prioritization was needed to narrow the focus to the most pressing hazards.

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