California issues draft rules on toxics in food

by Rick Daysog, Sacramento Bee

After nearly a year of delays, California is moving ahead with its ambitious plan to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer goods.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control on Monday released its informal draft regulations for California’s Green Chemistry initiative, a rewrite of the rules it first introduced in June 2010.

"We are starting fresh but not starting over," said Debbie Raphael, the DTSC’s director.

The new rules create a list of 3,000 toxic chemicals found in consumer items as diverse as personal care products, children’s toys, automobiles and even computers.

Under the Green Chemistry law, the state will require the identification of toxic ingredients in consumer products. The law also calls for a detailed analysis of alternatives to those ingredients.

Based on the findings of such studies, the state can require further research into the products, require the posting of product information or seek the removal of the toxic ingredients.

The DTSC previously said it would evaluate hundreds of consumer products. Under the new regulatory framework, the DTSC will start with a much smaller focus, evaluating no more than five products during the first few years of the programs, Raphael said.

Baby products and goods targeting the elderly will be a high priority, she said.

"It is necessary to be focused and compact," Raphael said, adding that the effort "will have to be done with existing resources."

The Green Chemistry Alliance, an organization that includes 150 business associations and large California consumer products makers, said it is still reviewing the latest draft and couldn’t comment on the new rules.

The alliance was critical of previous drafts, saying they were overly broad and would stifle innovation.

"It was totally unacceptable to the business community," said Dawn Koepke, the alliance’s co-chair.

DTSC initially released its draft regulations in June 2010 and had planned to implement them by December 2010.

But opposition from the business community prompted several rewrites of the draft regulations.

Last December, Linda Adams, then head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, ordered the department to delay the new regulations so that concerns from businesses and other stakeholders could be addressed.

Raphael said the agency has since engaged in talks with the business and scientific communities over the new regulations.

She said the state hopes to have a formal draft completed in the first quarter and the final regulations in place by as early as next fall.