Yesterday was the final deadline for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign or veto all of the laws that reached his desk, and a number of our top priority bills were signed into law.

One such bill was Assemblymember Mike Feuer’s AB 1879, which gives the state more authority to protect Californians’ health from toxic chemicals in consumer products.

AB 1879 takes a comprehensive approach to regulating chemicals in consumer products.  It is desperately needed since past attempts to regulate toxins have been piecemeal.  For example, CLCV helped pass AB 1108 (Ma) last year, a ban on phthalates in toys and products for children 3 years or younger.  While AB 1108 helps protect the young who are particularly vulnerable, we would all benefit from a wider reaching ban on this toxin.

Under AB 1879, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will be able to help consumers make better informed decisions and more effectively keep harmful chemicals out of everyday products.

Toxic substances—from lead-tainted toys to linens with toxic flame retardants—have become too common on our shelves and in our homes. While we’ve had recent victories with the passage of several laws regulating specific chemicals (phthalates in babies’ toys and products, toxins in cosmetic products), so far there has been no legislation that takes an overall approach to keeping toxic substances out of products that end up in our hands. Moreover, no state agency has the authority to take toxic products off the shelves or spur the development of safer alternatives, except in very limited areas. Assembly Bill 1879 (Feuer) would fill in this gap by authorizing the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to regulate chemicals of concern, like mercury and lead, in all consumer products.

AB 1879 will improve the health and safety of all Californians by giving the DTSC the authority to control toxic substances in consumer products. Right now, the state can only regulate certain classes of consumer products. For example, lead can be regulated in jewelry and water faucets, but few other products. AB 1879 removes these impediments by allowing the DTSC to pursue regulatory action for all consumer products in order to protect Californians from exposure to these harmful chemicals.

AB 1879 will:

  • identify and prioritize chemicals of concern in consumer products, taking into account the chemical’s hazard traits and factors such as the potential effects of exposure by children;
  • evaluate chemicals of concern in consumer products, and their possible alternatives, to reduce their hazard to public health and the environment;
  • establish a range of regulatory actions, from making information available to the public to restricting or prohibiting the use of the chemical in consumer products;
  • conduct a life-cycle evaluation of chemicals of concern to ensure that regulation of a chemical does not negatively affect public health or the environment; and
  • form a Green Ribbon Science Panel to advise DTSC on scientific and technical matters relating to chemicals use and exposures.

AB 1879 marks an important change in direction from legislated regulation of specific chemicals and products to a science-directed analysis of chemicals of concern. AB 1879 is entirely consistent with the Governor’s Green Chemistry Initiative and ensures that the Initiative will be action-oriented and take tangible steps to protect the public from dangerous chemicals and replace them with safe alternatives.

Posted on October 1, 2008


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