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March 21, 2014
California announces 'priority products'

As Congress dithers and delays over reforming the antiquated Toxic Substances Control Act, California took a major step in implementing its Safer Consumer Products (SCP) regulations. Specifically, the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced its first three draft priority products—consumer goods sold in California that contain at least one toxic chemical. 

Under the SCP, manufacturers are “asked” to find a safer alternative to these products.  Should manufacturers wish to continue selling the listed products, they would need to conduct an analysis to show that safer alternatives are not available.  The announcement does not commence the formal proposal process and the start of the public comment period.  That will begin this summer, says the DTSC, and a final action may be up to 1.5 years away.

Bedding, foam, and paint stripper

Following are the three products announced by the DTSC and its reasons for selecting them:

  • Children’s foam padded sleeping products containing TRIS(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (chlorinated TRIS), a flame retardant and probable carcinogen that can also cause chronic health effects.
  • Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) systems containing unreacted di-isocyanates.  SPF systems are used for home and building insulation, weatherization, sealing, and roofing.  Di-isocyanates can irritate the respiratory tract, cause asthma and cancer, and are known skin irritants.
  • Paint stripper containing methylene chloride, a known carcinogen and neurotoxin.

‘Innovative industries’

The California Legislature passed the Green Chemistry Law in 2008. The law authorizes and requires the DTSC to adopt regulations to establish a process to identify and prioritize chemicals in consumer products and to establish a process for evaluating chemicals of concern in consumer products and their potential alternatives.  The DTSC subsequently established a list of 1,100 toxic chemicals because of their potential to cause significant harm to people or the environment.  Products become priorities because they contain the chemicals and because of the potential for significant public exposure to the chemicals through the products. 

“The regulations provide an opportunity for innovative industries to capitalize on the growing consumer demand for products that are safer and better for the environment,” says the DTSC.

Overlap with fed

But the chemical industry has its doubts about the SCP program.  For example, in a blog posting, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said the DTSC has not done a thorough job in making use of information developed by the U.S. EPA on priority chemicals to ensure that the focus is on consumer products that “actually stand to reap benefits from an alternatives assessment.”

“As just one example of potential flaws in the program,” says the ACC, “despite being strongly encouraged not to duplicate current federal efforts, we are puzzled that as part of this first phase the [DTSC] has included plans to focus on a chemical-product combination that is already being thoroughly evaluated by EPA and other federal agencies.”

Also, the ACC questioned the reasoning behind listing spray polyurethane foam.  The ACC notes that this product is a superior insulation material with R-values in the range of 3.5 to 6.5 per 1 inch of thickness.  “Consumers can and should continue to rely on spray polyurethane foam to help maximize the energy efficiency of buildings where they live, work, and play,” wrote Lee Salamone, director of ACC’s Center for the Polyurethanes Industry.

Click here for nformation on DTSC’s SCP program.

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