No more just California Dreamin’: First three priority products proposed

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Today the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced its first three draft priority products—the next major milestone in the implementation of its Safer Consumer Product (SCP) regulations to address chemicals of concern in the marketplace.  While we’re still at the start of a long process, today’s announcement is the clearest indicator to date of the impact these regulations may have on consumer products.

The release of the draft priority products follows DTSC’s release last September of its candidate chemicals list and from within this list, the subset initial candidate chemicals list.  Together with the initial candidate chemical list, the identification of the draft priority products now defines the possible set of chemical-product combinations that may head toward alternatives assessment.  Read on for a description of the chemicals and products and of the next phase of regulatory actions. 

The candidate chemicals list and “initial” candidate chemicals list

The candidate chemicals list includes about 1100 chemicals and chemical groups (about 2300 individual chemicals in total) that exhibit a hazard trait or an environmental or toxicological endpoint and are either 1) found on one or more specified authoritative lists or 2) listed by DTSC using specified criteria detailed in the SCP regulations.  The initial candidate chemicals list is a subset of this list and includes chemicals that are also found on lists indicative of exposure.  There are 153 initial candidate chemicals and chemical groups (248 individual chemicals in total).  DTSC has developed a helpful diagram to explain the relationship between the candidate and initial candidate lists.  The specific names of the chemicals on these lists can be accessed here.

The draft priority products announced today

DTSC used the initial candidate chemicals to identify the draft priority products.  The agency searched for products containing the initial candidate chemicals and narrowed those down to 3 priority products based on “the potential adverse impacts of [the product’s] candidate chemical(s) and adverse impacts due to potential exposures during the life cycle of the product.”  Further information about this process can be found here.

Below are the draft priority products and the initial candidate chemicals present in them.  Together, they delineate the proposed chemical-product combinations that will move forward to the next phase of the SCP regulations.  Helpful supplemental information can be found here.

Draft Priority Product Chemical or Chemical Group Key Health Impacts of Concern Additional Info on DTSC’s Website
Children’s foam-padded sleeping products 1,3-dichloro-2-propyl phosphate (TDCPP), also known as chlorinated   Tris Human carcinogen and Endocrine disruption
Wet or “uncured” spray polyurethane foam (SPF) Diisocyanates* Respiratory effects (e.g., asthma), Skin Irritation, Suspected human   carcinogen
Paint and varnish removers, paint and varnish strippers, and surface   cleaners Methylene Chloride** Human carcinogen, Skin and eye irritation, Unconsciousness, Death

*The diisocyanates, MDI and TDI, are EPA action plan chemicals.

**Methylene chloride is an EPA work plan chemical.


The next phase of the SCP regulations

DTSC will be taking public comment on these proposed chemical-product combinations before finalizing them.  This could take up to 1.5 years.  Once finalized, businesses responsible for these products—beginning with their manufacturers but if necessary moving down the supply chain to retailers and product distributors—will be subject to product notification requirements, and may be subject to the chemical alternative analysis requirements, of the regulations. DTSC’s frequently asked questions (bottom of page) and flowchart [PDF] provide helpful background information regarding these requirements.

Still to come is the DTSC chemical alternatives analysis guidance that will detail how the agency expects the alternatives analysis requirement of the SCP regulations to be implemented.

In recent months, several groups have released principles for chemical alternatives assessment.  These include the Commons Principles for Alternatives Assessment jointly led by EDF, BizNGO, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production and Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute with signatories from companies, universities, governments, and environmental health groups; and a set of principles developed by manufacturing trade associations.  While there are some similarities between these sets of principles, they also differ in key ways.  For example, the Commons Principles include an explicit call for transparency with regard to alternatives assessment methodologies employed, data used to characterize alternatives, assumptions made and decision making rules applied.  Transparency elements are notably absent from the trades’ principles.

For the public and businesses to understand and make use of the results of an alternatives assessment, the process must be transparent.

In a related development, the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2), an association of state, local, and tribal governments, recently finalized its detailed IC2 chemical alternatives assessment guide, 20 months in the making.  The IC2 document provides a protocol for how to conduct an alternatives assessment.  This protocol is guided by a defined set of 6 principles, one of which addresses transparency: “All assumptions, data sources, data quality, decisions, etc., should be documented and explained. For example, decision methods require establishing weighting criteria. The values selected for the relative weightings should be communicated and justified.”

It will be every interesting to see how DTSC’s alternatives guidance will compare with these other related efforts.


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