2011-11-01 "Toxic chemicals: Agency hardens stance on products" by Marisa Lagos from "San Francisco Chronicle"
The state agency charged with regulating toxic substances has taken another crack at writing a "green chemistry" regulation intended to provide consumers with information about harmful chemicals in products, after its first draft was criticized as too weak.
The new proposal includes a much larger list of so-called chemicals of concern, expands who would be responsible for complying with the new regulation, and sets a higher bar for products that include even traces of potentially harmful chemicals such as lead and bisphenol A.
One of the most vocal critics of the previous proposal, UC Berkeley scientist Michael Wilson, said Monday that the new regulation appears sound and scientifically based.
The regulation, required by a 2008 law, is meant to help consumers identify harmful chemicals in household products - and ideally encourage manufacturers to replace those with safer alternatives. But the state agency charged with creating the regulation last year withdrew its first attempt, after health advocates accused officials of caving to industry pressure.
Debbie Raphael, director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, said the initiative will eventually require businesses that sell or manufacture products with dangerous chemicals to either replace those chemicals or explain to state regulators why they are needed and warn consumers or undertake steps to mitigate the public's exposure to those toxic substances.
They hope it will spur California manufacturers to create less-harmful chemicals.
"The problem we are trying to fix is that just because something is legal does not mean it is safe," Raphael said.
Last time, environmental and health organizations criticized the proposal as too limited.
Changes to list -
Almost a year later, the agency - led now by Raphael - has come up with a proposal that takes a different approach. Among the changes:
-- The list of chemicals of concern affected by the regulation has been expanded from about 800 to around 3,000.
-- The scope of products initially affected has been severely limited. Only two to five types of products, which have yet to be determined, with the greatest exposure potential will be initially affected.
-- Products that contain some particularly hazardous chemicals will be exempted only if they contain less than 0.01 percent, not one-tenth of a percent as previously proposed.
-- Who is responsible for complying with the regulation has been expanded from just the manufacturer to include importers and those who control the product design.
Raphael said the new proposal is the result of numerous meetings of the state's Green Ribbon Science Panel as well as hundreds of pages of comments from industry and the public and conversations with both business and environmentalists.
Impressed by scope -
Wilson, a director at UC Berkeley's Labor Occupational Health Program and a member of the Green Ribbon Science Panel, said he is particularly impressed by the agency's decision to include 3,000 chemicals in the regulation.
Dawn Koepke, co-chair of the Green Chemistry Alliance, an industry-backed group that includes businesses and trade associations, said the group plans to "review this proposed regulation carefully" and "offer detailed and thorough comments."
Draft proposal -
To see the draft regulations, visit dtsc.ca.gov/SCPRegulations.cfm.