California’s Green Chemistry Initiative: “Work Plan” basics and the 7 product categories – 3 action steps

by DLA Piper
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California is steadily implementing its landmark Green Chemistry Initiative, which increases regulation and oversight of consumer product chemical exposures in important ways.  In a recently published Work Plan on the statute, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has identified key product categories that will receive regulatory attention, and potential new compliance requirements, in the coming months.  Under the Green Chemistry Initiative, manufacturers of “Priority Products” – product/chemical combinations targeted by the DTSC – must conduct an Alternatives Analysis, evaluating the use of substitute chemicals with lesser environmental harm and reporting results to regulators.

Earlier this year, DTSC listed hundreds of Chemicals of Concern that, if found in certain consumer products, could be subject to an Alternatives Analysis.  The Work Plan does not identify any additional Chemicals of Concern, nor does it identify any specific products.  Rather, it narrows the focus of this broad regulation in an attempt to provide some notice to the manufacturers of products in specific categories. 

Manufacturers of identified products that contain Chemicals of Concern must be vigilant about their Green Chemistry Initiative compliance obligations, which can be substantial. In September, the DTSC released a Draft Priority Product Work Plan that spans the next three years.  This plan outlines seven categories of interest that will be subject to the increased regulatory requirements

Manufacturers of products in these categories should pay close attention to developments in the Green Chemistry Initiative, including the identification of Chemicals of Concern, which may trigger additional analysis and reporting requirements for such products. 

The categories are:

  1. Beauty, Personal Care and Hygiene Products
  2. Building Products and Household
  3. Office Furniture and Furnishings
  4. Cleaning Products
  5. Clothing
  6. Fishing and Angling Equipment
  7. Office Machinery

The Work Plan also describes how products will be prioritized when being selected by DTSC for further regulatory requirements.  The following attributes make any product more likely to be a Priority Product under the Green Chemistry Initiative:

  • Products with clear pathways for dermal, ingestion or inhalation exposure
  • Products with chemicals found in biomonitoring studies
  • Products with chemicals observed in indoor air quality studies
  • Products that include product-chemical combinations that impact sensitive subpopulations, such as children
  • Products that contain chemicals that have aquatic resource impacts and/or have been observed through water quality monitoring

For each product category, the Work Plan noted a number of chemicals of particular concern in each product.  Importantly, chemicals that do not appear in the Work Plan may still be subject to an Alternatives Analysis.  But those listed should serve as a guide and an indication of what is likely to be regulated in the future.  For those who manufacture products within one or more of the categories, DTSC has said they will focus on seven to ten products each year, for three years, to undergo an Alternatives Analysis.

The Work Plan is just the beginning of the implementation of the Green Chemistry Initiative.  In the coming months, DTSC will hold informational meetings and call-ins to gather industry knowledge and input for these categories, the chemicals identified within each category, and the Work Plan in general. 

Three action steps

  • Manufacturers of products in the DTSC’s designated categories should be assessing the components and chemical ingredients in those products. 
  • If listed Chemicals of Concern are present, then reformulation with substitutes should be carefully considered now, ahead of compliance deadlines triggered when DTSC names specific product/chemical combinations.
  • Impacted manufacturers should consider proactively participating in upcoming DTSC roundtable discussions to voice industry perspectives and better inform DTSC’s decisions.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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