California’s Safer Consumer Products Law, or Green Chemistry Initiative, went into effect this month with the objective of making numerous everyday goods safer for public use. Products from household cleaning supplies to packaging will be affected by this legislation on “green chemistry,” defined by the EPA as “the design of chemical products and processes that reduces or eliminates the use or generation of hazardous substances.”
Although this is a piece of state legislation, it will likely have widespread impacts for corporate operations across the United States and even throughout the global supply chain. California is the largest consumer market in the U.S. and a wide variety of companies will possibly need to reformulate all of their affected goods, regardless of destination. Furthermore, the implementation of this law is being watched closely by other state legislative bodies, and may become a template for state action throughout the country. Lawmakers in Michigan, Maine, New York, and Massachusetts are all currently considering similar action.
The Safer Consumer Products Law takes an unconventional approach to product safety. Rather than managing the amounts of specific chemicals that can be used in certain products, it looks at classes of goods, and attempts to remove unsafe chemicals from them altogether.
At a currently-unspecified date in 2015, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control will issue the first list of five “priority products” in a regulation pursuant to the law. In order to sell these goods in the state of California, responsible entities, including manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, and companies that assemble products, will be required to either justify their current chemical makeup, or demonstrate that they have used green chemistry successfully to make them safer for consumers.
Lawmakers have argued that the legislation will strengthen the green chemistry industry, creating new green business opportunities and jobs. While the exact economic consequences are unclear at this point, it is undeniable that this law represents a landmark for the prevalence of green chemistry in national, and even global manufacturing.
For more information about the California law, visit the Safer Consumer Products page on the California Department of Toxic Substances Control website. A list of the “candidate chemicals” being considered for priority products can be found here.