The state of California is set to launch a new green chemistry initiative. The driving forces behind the impending legislation are public health (children’s biology), marine biology, ocean litter, and skyrocketing costs of toxic waste sites.
Children are especially susceptible to exposure from toxic chemicals. From birth to age 1 out of the total chemicals per day a child is exposed to on average out of the 45 chemicals, 18 of those chemicals are shown not to be safe for children. From the ages from 1 to 2, the daily exposure is on average 60 chemicals of which 26 are shown to be not safe for children. The ages of 3, 4, and 5 finds a daily exposure of 64 chemicals, of which 29 are shown to be not safe for children. The ages of 6, 7, 8, and 9 finds a daily exposure of 65 chemicals of which 30 are shown not to be safe.
In the Pacific Ocean there are huge trash vortices accumulating more and more trash every minute of every day. Thus, exposure of toxic chemicals affects children and marine life significantly. In response to this, in 2008 the state of California passed SB 509 (Online Toxics Clearinghouse) and AB 1870 (Alternatives Analysis). These two laws are the precursor for the Green Chemistry Initiative Policy.
The Green Chemistry Policy affects consumer products. The definition of a consumer product for the purpose of the policy is quite broad. The definition is “a product or part of a product that is used, bought or leased for use by a person for any purpose”. Items excluded from the consumer product category are:
- Prescription drugs and devices (including packaging)
- Dental restorative materials (including packaging)
- Medical devices (including packaging)
California’s new green chemistry rules once enacted will apply to persons or companies that manufacture a product, or controls the specifications and design of, or use of materials in a product that is placed into the stream of commerce in California. It also affects a person or company that sells consumer products in California. This includes “importers” (import products into California) and retailers (sells, supplies, or offers for sale directly to a consumer in California).
The initial list of chemicals covers chemicals that:
- Exhibits a hazard trait or an environmental toxicological endpoint as identified in OEHHA regulations AND is on one of the twenty two lists from §69502.2(a) or is identified by the Department based upon the factors contained at §69502.2(b)
The list currently contains 3,000 chemicals. The last draft of product types containing these chemicals was issued in October of 2011. In the end the policy is meant to make the process of making products safer. The policy covers the process of making products, by conducting a lifecycle based alternatives analysis. It also requires manufacturers to provide toxicity data on ingredients (and potential alternatives) contained in products. It also requires the applicable parties to submit the product design process to a public review process. The possible regulatory outcomes include substituting ingredients, labels, creating and implementing an end of life stewardship program, and funding research and development for less toxic chemicals. Failure to comply will result in fines, penalties, and other enforcements.
Currently, the policy is set to take effect at the end of 2012 or early 2013. Thus manufactures need to take immediate action by identifying the potentially vulnerable components of products, implement new supply chain contracts, consider the need for additional public outreach and communication, and lastly review intellectual property to ensure the maintenance of trade secret information during the public review process.
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