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Volume 86 Issue 36 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: September 8, 2008

California Chemical Legislation

State's new laws on chemicals could presage federal action
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Green Chemistry
Corbett
Credit: Courtesy of Ellen Corbett
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Corbett
Credit: Courtesy of Ellen Corbett

On Aug. 31, the California State Legislature passed two bills to promote the use of greener chemicals, a move that will affect chemical makers nationwide and could presage an overhaul of the federal toxic substances law.

The legislation initiates creation of a state regulatory system to encourage phaseout of toxic compounds in consumer products and development of more environmentally friendly ones. State lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) hammered out the measures with input from the chemical industry and environmental groups.

One of the bills instructs the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to establish by 2011 a process for identifying, prioritizing for possible regulation, and evaluating chemicals found in consumer products. The other calls for establishment of a public database of chemical toxicity information.

Passage of the California legislation increases the chances that the next Congress will overhaul the 32-year-old federal Toxic Substances Control Act, Andy Igrejas of the Pew Charitable Trusts' environmental health campaign says.

In addition to the greener chemicals bills, the California legislature passed a measure that will affect perfluorocarbon (PFC) manufacturers in and outside the state. It bans several types of PFCs from food packaging that is made or sold in the state, starting in 2010. PFCs are often used to make food wrappers that are grease- and water-resistant.

The ban covers perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), homologs of PFOA and PFOS that contain seven or more fluorinated carbon atoms, and PFCs that break down in the environment into PFOA or PFOS. PFOA and PFOS biopersist and are linked to health problems.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett (D), who sponsored the bill, says there is no reason to allow continued use of the PFCs targeted by the legislation "when there are safe alternatives that responsible corporations are already using." An aide to Corbett tells C&EN some fast-food restaurant chains have stopped buying food packaging that contains the banned PFCs.

The American Chemistry Council and the Chemical Industry Council of California are asking Schwarzenegger to veto the PFC ban.

 
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