CA Opens Consumer Product Draft for Comment

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.”

4 comments on “CA Opens Consumer Product Draft for Comment

  1. Taimoor Zubar
    July 31, 2012

    While I think chemical safety is a great idea, unfortunately, as with all regulation, there's a big chance that some bureaucrat or another is going to get very rich on this scheme.”

    @Rich: I agree. What we have seen in the past is that alternate material suppliers may force the environmental agencies to recommend their materials. They may end up taking advantage of the situation and be the ultimate winners.


  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 31, 2012

    Rich: The intent of the identification of alternate chemicals is to prevent the substitution of Bad Chemical A with Equally Bad Chemical B. I guess there have been a lot of situations in which the cure is worse than the illness. But I agree–consultants can have a heyday with this. There is currently a downside, though: there is absolutely no funding allotment for this reg. I'm not sure how that works: my impression is that once it gets off the ground it stands a chnace of getting funded. But for the time bring, there's not a lot of money to be made unless you invent the “perfect” chemical.

  3. ahdand
    July 31, 2012

    Well I feel altenatives are not upto standas and you should not settle down on altenatives if you have no idea about the poduct.

  4. mike_at_DCA
    August 10, 2012

    Well I can tell you that nobody in government or in consulting is going to “get rich” from this regulation. Yes, we'll make a living…but there's a big delta between that and “rich”. If you think otherwise then please enlighten me on this breathtakingly cynical perspective.

    Now, who actually STANDS to get rich are the manufacturers of successful chemical or technology alternatives that are designed with the precepts of Green Chemistry in mind, and the manufacturers that incorporate these materials and can therefore have a competitive advantage in their markets. If you imagine for a second that they can “take advantage of the situation” then explain how. I don't see it – there are all kinds of checks and balances, primarily in the public visibility throughout this process, that will prevent that.

    The successful chemical and product manufacturers are the ones who will “get rich” and, to me, that is the the end this is supposed to drive. That's a positive outcome.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.