California Tries To Improve Household Toxic Chemical Regulations

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Many items that you could buy at your average grocery store are composed of or have added to them various types of chemicals.  If not the product itself, there’s always the chance that the packaging that holds the product includes some type of chemical.  This should be evident to anyone that ever looks at the ingredient list of your average skin care product or package of food.

The state of California wants to make sure consumers are protected from the deleterious effects of the more hazardous chemicals out there.  To that end, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control is unveiling a new approach to the governance of these types of chemicals in items.

The pending measure, which would be enacted in less than one week, seeks to take a broader tact when it comes to limiting consumers’ exposure to potentially hazardous materials.  At the moment, the state only bans certain chemicals from certain products, with lawmakers having to pass a new rule every time they want to enact such a ban.  The LA Times article linked to above notes BPA being banned from baby items as one example of a very limited measure.

The new rules seem to put the impetus for safety on the manufacturers of products that officials at the state level deem to have some sort of risk potential.  Officials will determine what classifications of product should be under review.  Once that review is called for, manufacturers will be required to submit information justifying the inclusion of chemicals that could be potentially hazardous.  They must also explain why no substitutes could be used in those hazardous substances’ stead.  If a safer alternative is available, the company will have to make a switch.

While this has the potential to have a distinct impact on public safety, even various safety advocates worry that the new regulations won’t be fully realized.  An official with the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer fund noted that such a rule will be beset by lawsuits, likely from the companies that the new rules place a burden upon.  And with Congress currently mulling a law that would limit states’ ability to get tough on toxic substances, it’s also possible that these state regulations could be superseded.

Not surprisingly, the American Chemistry Council and other industry groups are displeased with the newly unveiled measures.  The ACC contends that there will be little impact on public health but a large negative impact on business and that the rule provokes alarm where none is necessary.  The California Chamber of Commerce is similarly nonplussed, saying that the impact on businesses wasn’t adequately examined by the state.