Safer Consumer Product Regulation Includes European REACH

The California Department of Toxic Substances’ (DTSC) Safer Consumer Products regulations went into effect on October 1, 2013. These regulations require manufacturers to seek alternative safer chemical ingredients in widely used consumer products. DTSC kicked off the program by publishing an informational list of Candidate Chemicals. By April 1 of next year, it will identify a list of proposed Priority Products. The Candidate Chemicals list is the subject of this post. The inclusion of REACH and other major European programs as authoritative bodies for the identification of hazardous chemicals on the list likely will be of interest to US manufacturers.

The Safer Consumer Products regulations define a Candidate Chemical as a chemical that exhibits a “hazard trait and/or an environmental or toxicological endpoint” and is either: (a) found on one or more of the defined authoritative lists or (b) is specifically identified by DTSCs according the criteria in the regulations. In addition to the chemical name and Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number (CASRN), the list specifies the basis for each chemical’s listing (i.e., authoritative list name). In some cases, groupings of Candidate Chemicals (PCBs, dioxins, etc.) appear on the list as opposed to individual chemicals. The stated purpose of the list is to inform stakeholders about chemicals that may be named as Chemicals of Concern if they are identified as part of a priority product-chemical combination.

DTSC stresses that the informational list is NOT a list of Chemicals of Concern (CoC) and that a chemical ONLY becomes a CoC when it is the basis for a product being listed as a Priority Product. However, this distinction between information and identification of CoCs is not entirely clear as DTSC states that it published the full list to help prevent “regrettable substitutions” of one Candidate Chemical for another. Thus, they certainly are flagged as chemicals to avoid. Also, DTSC goes on to state that the full list may be of interest to consumers who wish to become more informed about the chemicals that may be present in the products they purchase. Officially or not, it’s likely that the list will be interpreted by many as identifying CoCs.

The Candidate Chemical list is available for download on the DTSC website. The list contains approximately 1,500 individual chemicals and chemical groups. DTSC notes that not all of these are found in consumer products but again cautions manufacturers against substituting a chemical in a product with any of the listed compounds. Chemicals appear on the list because they have a “hazard trait” that may contribute to adverse effects in humans, animals, or in ecological communities. The hazard traits that determine whether a chemical was included in the list are identified in a California regulation on Green Chemistry that is administered by the California Office of Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). One chapter of this Green Chemistry regulation is an extensive list of all of the toxicological, environmental, exposure, and physical hazard traits that are considered.

The authoritative lists for these endpoints that are considered by DTSC are identified and summarized on their website. The Candidate Chemical list establishes an important precedent for the identification of authoritative bodies and authoritative lists for hazardous chemicals in the US by including a substantial number of programs of the European Commission, the European Chemicals Agency and Canada. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is the primary regulatory body responsible for REACH (Regulation on Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals). These European and Canadian programs add chemicals to the list that are considered to be carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxicants; endocrine disruptors; persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic; and respiratory sensitizers. A number of these chemicals would not be on the list if the authoritative bodies were restricted to US programs. At this early stage, the impacts on US manufacturers is limited as only a few Priority Products and consumer product-chemical combinations will be identified for regulation. However, the precedent of taking a more global perspective on chemical hazard identification has now been established by a major governmental program. Ultimately, this decision may have implications for a much broader range of US manufacturing including the building products and furniture industries.

Al Hodgson; November 1, 2013

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