The Safer Consumer Products program, which will provide education for consumers and require businesses to create product formulas using safer chemical alternatives, went into effect today. According to sfgate.com:
But the new law is more far-reaching. Instead of targeting specific chemicals, it tries to prevent companies from simply swapping in one hazardous compound for another with unknown or potentially toxic effects, said Dr. Megan Schwarzman, associate director of UC Berkeley's Center for Green Chemistry.
"It's not just singling out a single chemical or a class of chemicals for elimination," she said. "It's really requiring producers to ask two types of questions in an overarching sense: Is there a safer way of getting the function that (the chemical) gets? Is this chemical necessary in this product or is there another way of accomplishing the same goal?"
The Department of Toxic Substance Control released a list of 164 chemicals that have been identified as either dangerous to human health or to the environment. They will choose up to five household products that contain one or more of these chemicals. After a year, the product manufacturers will be required to decide if they can reformulate their products. If they choose not to, the state may restrict their ability to sell the products, or may require them to place warning labels on the products.
Some potential products include nail polish that contains toluene, a possible reproductive hazard; carpet adhesive with formaldehyde, a carcinogen; and mercury in fluorescent light bulbs.
Reducing toxic chemicals in products will also help make them easier to recycle, resulting in reduced hazardous waste management costs, reduced risk to workers handling the recycled materials and reduced amounts of pollutants entering the environment.
Green Chemistry represents a large-scale paradigm shift in the way we view the chemicals contained in consumer products. It shifts away from evaluating chemicals after they're already being used by consumers or already being disposed of, and moves toward evaluating potential hazards when a product is in development, before the harm is done.
CAW supported the legislation that led to this program; we look forward to the environmental and health benefits that will be realized due to its implementation.
Photo credit: WebMD