June 23rd, 2010
05:51 PM ET

California plans tough product safety limits

By Caleb Hellerman
CNN Senior Medical Producer

The state of California proposed new rules Monday that could force makers of consumer products to show they're not using harmful plastics or other ingredients, or face restrictions including a possible ban on selling those products. If the rules go into effect, they could have a ripple effect beyond California, since many companies  are unlikely to develop separate product lines, just for that state.

Maziar Movassaghi, acting director of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, says the ambitious plan seeks to totally reshape the way new products are developed. “We’ve had 30 years relying on [federal law], and it’s had limited success,” Movassaghi said. “The idea here is to go up the pipeline to the desk of individuals designing products, asking them to design products safe for use, and safe for the environment.”

Under the proposed rule, the DTSC will develop a list of chemical ingredients and products that may pose a health or environmental concern. The DTSC could then require companies to submit more information, including data on safety or suitability for recycling. Movassaghi says companies won’t be forced to do additional testing, but can re-submit reports they’ve already prepared to meet regulations in Europe, Canada or Japan. One goal, he says, is to ensure that products in California don’t face less scrutiny than products sold elsewhere. “We don’t want to become the toxic dumping ground of unsafe products that manufacturers can’t sell in other parts of the world.”

The DTSC, depending on its eventual findings, could take a wide range of actions, from an outright ban on a product, to requiring companies to explore alternative ingredients, to requiring those companies to take back products for recycling.

There will be 21-day period for members of the public, including industry groups, to comment on the rules. The California Chamber of Commerce had no comment on Monday's proposal, but in early June the business coalition pointed to several elements that might be "problematic." The chamber urged the DTSC to offer flexibility to companies in meeting requirements, to avoid imposing major costs and to focus on products posing a major risk. "If DTSC fails to implement a science-based approach to screening out products with low likelihood of harm, the program will surely collapse under its own weight," the chamber said in a statement.

A final version of the regulations is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2011.

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Pam Palitz

    This draft of the regulations is a real step forward. I am particularly pleased to see that the alternatives assessments conducted by manufacturers will be verified by certified third-party assessors. The draft does not seem to consider the issue of chemicals for which there is no available data ("data gaps"), which would appear to be a problem. And the regulations lack any expedited assessment plan for known "bad actor chemicals." But DTSC seems to be listening to stakeholders, and there is still one more draft to go before the regulations enter the final approval process.

    June 23, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Bob

    Thank you, California, for being ahead of the curve.

    June 24, 2010 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Terry

    What an idiot state. Maybe they should join the european union.

    June 24, 2010 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. John Worthington

    This is an awesome and long overdue idea. I hope the law is passed. Although I don't live in CA, I will still benefit. I would have like to have been able to trust the manufacturers to ensure they are making safe products, out of fear of bankruptcy if nothing else, but history has shown that they cannot be trusted.

    June 24, 2010 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. george smythson

    Typical political over-reaction based on junk/non-science.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Austin

    Good Job California!

    June 24, 2010 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. John

    Sounds like a system ripe for abuse and political posturing.

    The story states "DTSC will develop a list of chemical ingredients and products that may pose a health or environmental concern" which will leave a lot open to personal opinion.

    Although I find it ironic that the state who is loudest in their call to boycott Arizona for trying to enforce federal laws would state "“We’ve had 30 years relying on [federal law], and it’s had limited success" and then plan to take matters into their own hands. LOL!

    June 24, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. lx

    This is REAL PROGRESS at last. I am so happy that regulators are actually realizing that toxins in the form of toys can contaminate our bodies and our children's bodies.. I hope this passes

    June 24, 2010 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jan CA

    Unless we educate ourselves, most of us are very naive when it comes to this topic. There was a time when cigarettes were considered "safe." I'm very happy to hear that CA is leading the way. Another good reason to keep Meg Whitman out of politics; her platform does not appear very green. Companies need to be forced to find alternatives to unsafe materials; at the very least mark their packaging as such. I was recently diagnosed with a form of cancer that has been linked to toxins, such as hair dyes. Most of us, unless faced with such a crisis, simply don't know better.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Tard

    Sadly, I live in WA State which idolizes the socialistic practices of Kalifornia. No doubt, this same ban is coming to 'my' state.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rob

    California once again leads the nation – other states will follow suit.

    For anyone who thinks that this is stupid – the answer is simple – any company who doesn't want to comply can always stop selling their product in California.

    Of course while a company may tell small states to take a hike – how many of these companies will want to stop selling to consumers in California?

    June 24, 2010 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Cherie

    I am very excited that CA is trying to do this. I was like many other Americans until I actually became educated on the subject of pastics and its harmful effects. Its not just the toxicity of the chemicals to humans, but the fact that it cant truly be 100% recycled...it is just ruining our soil, rivers, and oceans. Just think of all the stuff made of plastic, including toys your kids play with.

    To do a small part, I now make sure that I get paper bags (where I can) and/or use my reusable shopping bags. For those that want to say well paper is bad...no its not. Its 100% Biodegradable and can also be recycled. Some are now using inks made from plants, not chemicals. Its also made from atleast 40% recycled materials (some are alot more) and if you knew anything about the milling industry you know that for every tree taken, 3 more are planted (on forest lands). Atleast thats how it is where I live, so I feel comfortable with the way I shop. Im not by any means doing enough...but I do recycle cans, paper, and plastic bottles, even though its difficult where I live. I know in California its mandatory to do this...kinda wish it was that way everywhere so it would be easier to recycle 🙂

    June 24, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. vibrantgfx

    Fantastic plan of action! This will initiate a true "green" revolution and I can see this expanding to the rest of the United States very quickly. The Department of Toxic Substances seems to be keeping the lines of communication open, offering alternatives assessments, which is commendable! It is definitely an asset to know that if we choose to work with plastics vendors in CA, we will not be compromising our customer's safety!

    June 24, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Annie

    What constitutes "safe"? This is a dumb law written by dumb people who do not have a clue about what this will do to domestic manufacturers (aka US job providers). To think that Chinese manufacturers are going to abide by the rules, is not only naive, it is ludicrous. All you are doing is making sure more jobs move to other countries and fewer non-service jobs will be avialable here.

    June 24, 2010 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Joe Public

    For far too long Manufacturer’s have included suspect chemicls into products with out fully knowing the impact of what is being put in peoples homes and workplaces and bodies. The monitoring for safety guidelines involving ingredients of manufactured goods designed for the general public is a haphazard miss mash of rules poorly regulated and just as poorly inforced. Just in example Polyvinylchloride, commonly know as PVC used in a wide variety of products for the home “as in PVC pipe for plumbing” turns out to contain highly toxic PBT’s “Polybutylene terephthalate” which leach out over time. Bisphenol A or BPA used in polycarbonate plastic — the hard, clear, shatterproof plastics that comprise water bottles, food packaging, and many infant bottles, Can mimic human hormones causing developmental health issues for infants as well as effecting adults. We as humans have developed numerous compounds and chemicals applied to everyday use and we do not check to see just how they may effect people over a life time. A very poor strategy for the safety or us and our children. Here is a link to some you may use every day.


    June 24, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. DIANA

    John, are you serious?! This law doesn't allow cops to stop people in the streets only because they're brown. What an idiot! I live in Calif and I'm glad we're more progressive than the likes of you.

    June 24, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply

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