Late last week, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) issued a formal draft (PDF) of its Safer Consumer Products (SCP) regulation for comment. (See: Tracking Calif. Consumer Products Proposal.) The department will accept comments for 45 days.
Similar in concept to the EU's REACH, the SCP regulation would require product manufacturers, importers, and retailers to identify 1,200 chemicals of concern (COCs) in their products, including substances such as copper, which is used in electronics. Manufacturers would be required to identify alternatives to these chemicals and outline plans to eliminate the chemicals of concern from their products.
This regulation would implement AB 1879, a state law enacted in 2008. According to the consulting firm Design Chain Associates, AB 1879 requires the DTSC to produce a list of chemicals of concern. A draft version of the list with about 1,200 substances will be released during this comment period. The DTSC will also have to identify a group of Priority Products. (The initial list is expected to include no more than five substances.)
Companies that produce or sell Priority Products in California that contain a CoC will be required to identify potential alternatives to the CoC; perform an "alternatives assessment" across a variety of functional, environmental, and human health impact criteria; and send the DTSC a report detailing its findings and proposed next steps. The DTSC will review the report and determine its response.
"This is a very different type of product-targeted environmental regulation than we have seen in the past," Michael Kirschner, president of Design Chain Associates, told us in an e-mail. "It does not simply ban or restrict substances in products; it forces the manufacturer to assess alternatives via an environmental performance perspective (in addition to the more common form/fit/function/cost perspective). This will require more work on the manufacturer's part than ban/restriction regulations, but should result in fewer 'regrettable substitutions' than we've seen in the past."