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California's Safer Consumer Products Initiative Kicks In

State to push consumer product makers to use safer ingredients whenever possible

by Cheryl Hogue
October 3, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 40

The first regulatory effort in the U.S. that pushes consumer product makers to shift from the use of hazardous chemicals to safer ingredients took effect in California last week.

As the first step in its Safer Consumer Products initiative, California issued a list of some 150 hazardous substances found in consumer products. This list of what the state calls “candidate chemicals” includes flame retardants, chlorinated solvents, and perfluorinated compounds. Regulators will use the list to identify a set of products containing these substances. The state will then ask manufacturers to evaluate those products and to reformulate them, if feasible, by replacing the hazardous chemicals they contain with safer alternatives.

“Smart businesses are already planning ahead, looking for alternative chemicals they can promote as less toxic, family friendly, and environmentally safe,” says Debbie Raphael, director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The department says the initiative, which stems from two 2008 state laws encouraging the use of green chemistry, will start slowly. By April 2014, regulators will select up to five products that will be the first targets for possible reformulation.

Inclusion of a substance on the candidate chemical list doesn’t necessarily mean its use in a consumer product poses a risk, points out the industry trade group American Chemistry Council. Chemicals with hazardous characteristics can be used safely when exposure to them is limited, ACC says.


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