On March 13, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced the initial draft list of “priority products” under the state’s Safer Consumer Products program.  Once the list is finalized, the program will requires companies to determine if there are less toxic alternatives to the chemicals in these consumer products.

The three “priority products” are:

  • spray polyurethane foam systems used in building insulation containing unreacted diisocyanates in;
  • children’s foam padded sleeping products containing tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP) found; and,
  • paint and varnish strippers and surface cleaners containing methylene chloride (DCM).

The Safer Consumer Product regulations, sometimes referred to as “green chemistry regulations”, went into effect on October 1, 2013.  The program’s purpose is to seek to reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products, create new business opportunities in the emerging safer consumer products economy, and make it easier for consumers and businesses to identify the components of products they buy.

The program created a four-step continuous, science-based process to identify safer consumer product alternatives.

  1. Establish an immediate list of “candidate chemicals” and specify a process for the DTSC to identify additional chemicals.  This has already been started.
  2. Evaluate and prioritize product and candidate chemicals, called chemicals of concern, combinations to develop a list of “priority products” for which alternatives analyses must be conducted.  The products above are the first draft of that list. The DTSC will begin the public comment on the list in the summer of 2014
  3. Responsible entities—manufacturers, importers, assemblers, and retailers— will be required to notify DTSC if their product-chemical combination is a Priority Product.  Manufacturers must then perform an “alternatives analysis” for the product and the chemicals of concern in the product to determine how best to limit exposures to the chemicals of concern in the product.  The alternatives analysis requires manufacturers to ask three questions: (1) if the chemical ingredient is necessary, (2) if there is a safer alternative, and (3) if the alternative is feasible.
  4. DTSC must identify and implement possible regulatory responses, ranging from product labeling to a sales ban,.

For the more visual among us, DTSC put together a great flow chart explaining the process.

The chemicals in these products are not new to regulatory scrutiny.  The EPA previously targeted certain diisocyanates in a 2011 Action Plan that calls for relevant health and safety data to be submitted.  The EPA noted that diisocyanates are well known dermal and inhalation sensitizers and have been documented to cause asthma, lung damage, and in severe cases, fatal reactions.  The concern with unreacted diisocyanates is that their increased consumer availability means that they are increasingly used in and around buildings, including homes and schools, by workers and self-employed workers, which can lead to an increased number of incidental exposures.  The EPA also conducted a draft risk assessment in 2012 of DCM and the use of DCM-based paint strippers as part of its comprehensive approach to enhance the Agency’s existing chemicals management program under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).