Safer Chemicals

Why the California Safer Consumer Product Regulations Matter to Your Business

Join BizNGO for a webinar on March 19 with Helen Holder of HP, where we will dive into the alternatives assessment requirements of the Safer Product Regulations. Sign up here.

Last week the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) released its first three Priority Products under the Safer Consumer Product Regulations:
-- children’s padded nap mats containing the flame retardant TDCPP (chlorinated tris),
-- spray polyurethane foam systems containing unreacted diisocyanates (used in home insulation), and
-- paint and varnish strippers containing methylene chloride.

The initial impacts of the Safer Consumer Product Regulations are limited to three narrow product categories where companies are already well on the path to using alternative chemicals. But the initial Priority Product categories and the regulations themselves have much broader implications.

Starting with the initial three product categories, if you manufacture or sell children’s nap mats, spray polyurethane foams, or paint strippers in California you need to know: Does my product contain any of those three chemicals? If yes, it is important to note that you now have roughly one year to remove the chemical of concern from your product before the Priority Product is officially listed in regulation. In substituting a chemical of concern, like TDCPP in foam nap mats, manufacturers will want to select an alternative that is NOT on the California Candidate Chemicals List (approximately 2300 chemicals) to avoid having to perform an alternatives assessment of their product.

Most companies will want to avoid performing an alternatives assessment as required by California. As Helen Holder will discuss on March 19, performing an alternatives assessment that meets the California requirements is a major undertaking. It is much better to perform an internal alternatives assessment that meets your needs and assures use of a less hazardous, a safer alternative. At all costs, you want to avoid a regrettable substitution, substituting one hazardous chemical with another chemical that is of equal or greater hazard.

If you’re not using TDCPP in foam nap mats for children, but are using a chemical on the Candidate Chemicals List as a flame retardant in the product, you would still need to do an alternatives assessment. This means that sellers of foam nap mats, spray polyurethane foams, or paint strippers will need to know does my product contain any of the 2300 chemicals on the Candidate Chemicals List.

Finally the initial three Priority Products are a call to all companies selling consumer products in California to ask: Do I have any of the 248 chemicals on the California Initial Candidate Chemicals List in my product? In selecting Priority Product – Chemical combinations the state starts from an initial list of 248 chemicals. These 248 chemicals are the ones the state is looking for when identifying Priority Products. Companies whose products contain any of those Initial Candidate Chemicals and want to be ahead of regulatory trends will want to start soon on the path of identifying safer alternatives that meet performance and cost requirements.

The initial three Priority Products also flag a major category of products that have largely been ignored in the movement to safer chemicals – the “do it yourself” (DIY) products. While retailers like Walmart and Target have been focusing on chemicals in cleaning products and personal care products, the California regulations highlight that DIY products are another product category of concern, with potentially very high concentrations of inherently hazardous chemicals. Both the spray polyurethane foam and paint stripper products highlight that DIY products can contain chemicals of high concern to human health or the environment at very high levels of concentration.

The California regulations are going to drive companies away from known hazardous chemicals and ideally to safer alternatives.

In the bigger picture, the California program is the most recent indicator of a momentous shift underway in the marketplace away from chemicals of high concern to human health or the environment. California joins Washington State, Maine, Minnesota, the European Union, and major retailers like Target, Walmart, and just last week, Bed, Bath and Beyond in targeting the reduction of chemicals of high concern to human health or the environment in products.

Cailfornia’s regulations are huge in that they reinforce and expand on existing trends:

-- Consumers and retailers want products made with inherently safer chemicals.
-- Toxic chemicals in products are a growing liability for brands. Brands can choose to wait for government regulation, market demands, or can get out ahead of these regulations and replace chemicals of high concern with safer alternatives.
-- The scope of products categories under concern is growing. Children’s products, personal care and beauty care products are all under scrutiny from consumers, retailers, and state governments. By including spray foams and paint strippers, California adds a new category of products to state regulation, building/DIY products. This focus on chemicals in building products is gaining momentum. In 2013, the U.S. Green Building Council’s new standard for buildings (LEED v4) includes credits for identifying and evaluating chemicals in building products.
-- The preference is to safer alternatives. A centerpiece of the California regulations is the avoidance of “regrettable substitutions” – the replacing of a regulated chemical of concern with non-regulated chemical of concern. Ultimately the goal is a safer alternative.

The California regulations will drive companies to identify safer alternatives to the chemicals of concern.