California Solidifies Green Chemistry Initiative

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sept. 29 signed a bipartisan package that will move the state toward a comprehensive green chemistry program to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals in products and the environment.

Schwarzenegger said that the legislation "puts an end to the less effective 'chemical-by-chemical' bans of the past" and "we will stop looking at toxics as an inevitable byproduct of industrial production."

AB 1879 establishes authority for the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to develop regulations that create a process for identifying and prioritizing chemicals of concern and to create methods for analyzing alternatives to existing hazardous chemicals. It also allows DTSC to take certain actions following an assessment that ranges from "no action" to "restrictions or bans." The bill also establishes a Green Ribbon Science Panel made up of experts to provide advice on scientific matters, chemical policy recommendations and implementation strategies, as well as ensuring implementation efforts are based on a strong scientific foundation.

SB 509 creates an online Toxics Information Clearinghouse, a Web-based database, to increase consumer knowledge about the toxicity and hazards of thousands of chemicals used in California every day.

California's Secretary for Environmental Protection has established a Green Chemistry Initiative to develop policy options for implementing a green chemistry program. The goal of this initiative is to work with scientists from California and around the world to evaluate the health effects of chemicals and possible alternatives with a systematic and comprehensive approach that is science-based.

The state has two other laws related to dangerous chemicals, including:

• SB 484 (2005) requires disclosure of chemicals in cosmetics, and

• SB 1379 (2006) initiates a bio-monitoring program and makes California the only state that measures and catalogues human exposure to chemicals.

Environmental Defense Fund Senior Scientist Richard A. Denison, Ph.D., a member of the Green Chemistry Initiative Science Advisory Panel, expressed his approval of the measure: "The legislation adopted today will establish a strong foundation for advancing a sound, comprehensive chemicals policy in California. It addresses serious deficiencies in the state's authority to regulate chemicals, which currently limits regulation only to product categories specified by statute rather than providing a broader authority to restrict such chemicals wherever the state finds them to present undue harm."

Denison noted that additional legislation will be needed to ensure:

• sufficient information is developed to identify chemicals of concern, and that as many of these data as possible are made publicly available, consistent with protection of legitimate confidential business information,

• the state has sufficient authority to act expeditiously to control or restrict use of chemicals of concern.

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