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California Adopts Groundbreaking Safer Consumer Product Regulations

Image credit: Department of Toxic Substances Control

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) now has significantly expanded oversight regarding chemicals used in products involved in the state’s commerce stream, following the adoption of the Safer Consumer Product (SCP) Regulations that implements the Green Chemistry statute.

While other states have adopted or are considering "Green Chemistry" initiatives, California has the only program that extends beyond children's products to any and all consumer products.

The new regulations require the DTSC to identify its initial list of candidate chemicals by October 31, 2013.

By next April, DTSC will need to identify up to five "priority products" that will be subject to the SCP regulations during the first few years of implementation.

The proposed list will then be subject to a public review and comment period of at least 45 days. Companies considered "responsible entities" for priority products will face extensive requirements, such as submitting several notifications and preparing detailed evaluations of alternatives. While the responsible entity is usually the manufacturer, the SCP regulations also impose requirements on importers, assemblers and retailers.

Once DTSC has finalized the list of priority products, responsible entities will have only 60 days to submit between one and three types of notifications to DTSC:

1. Confirmation that the business is a responsible entity for a priority product.

2. Notification that the product contains the chemical of concern at a level lower than the specified threshold and thereby eliminating the alternatives analysis requirement for the product.

3. Whether the entity intends to remove the product from sale, remove the chemical from the product, or replace the chemical in the product.

Within 180 days after the list of priority products is finalized, a responsible entity must submit a detailed alternatives analysis for their product, unless they have certified that their product is below the threshold level.

Alternatives analyses are subject to public review and comment, and responsible entities may be required by DTSC to address particular public comments in their final alternatives analysis document.

After reviewing the alternatives analysis, DTSC will select a "regulatory response," which may require submitting additional information to DTSC, notification to the consumer regarding the chemical of concern, restrictions on use, administrative controls, further research regarding alternative ingredients, end-of-life disposal requirements or even a ban on the product.

While DTSC has not yet revealed what products it is considering, possible candidates include carpet adhesives containing formaldehyde, household cleaning products, personal care products such as nail polish, or products such as furniture containing flame retardants. DTSC says it will review and revise the priority products list at least every three years.

In related news, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) recently revealed independent testing finding a cancer-causing chemical in 98 shampoos, soaps and other personal care products sold by major national retailers.


Currently based in Washington, D.C, Mike Hower is a writer and strategic communicator helping to drive the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and public policy. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and History from University of California,… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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