States Moving Forward With Chemical Reporting Laws, Creating Confusion for Businesses

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As part of the recent “Green Chemistry” push, numerous states have considered or enacted laws mandating companies selling products there, predominantly children’s products, report to these state agencies data about the chemicals contained in their products.  Two things have spurred this movement.  One is Congress’ inability to achieve consensus on amending and modernizing the Toxic Controls Substances Act, the primary federal law regulating chemicals in consumer products, last overhauled in 1976.  The other is the passage in 2008 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was a reaction to imported products for children containing excessive amounts of lead and heavy metals from China. In 2012, at least 28 state legislatures considered varying bills addressing chemicals in consumer products.  There are states, including Washington and Maine, that already require reporting and impose penalties for noncompliance, while some have deadlines approaching.  The patchwork of legislation, though well meaning, creates potential traps for companies trying to do the right thing and comply with the various regulations while balancing legitimate concerns about the cost and confusion these new laws will likely create for customers.

 

The two most ambitious laws currently in effect are in Washington and Maine.  Each of these laws applies to all manufacturers who sell children’s products into those respective states.  Reporting deadlines under the Washington law began in August 2012 for large manufacturers of toys, children’s cosmetics and jewelry and baby products, mandating reporting through a state website whether these products contain any of 66 chemicals currently listed on Washington’s “Chemicals of High Concern” list.  The Maine law is similar, but unlike Washington, Maine requires both manufacturers and distributors to report the existence of certain chemicals in their products, and requires them to submit “alternative assessments” to the use of such chemicals.  Maine has now published a list of 49 chemicals on its chemicals of concern list.