California green chemistry initiative could serve as US template

30 March 2010 21:53  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--California is seeking to develop a final regulation and implement its green chemistry initiative by the end of this year, prompting consideration of similar regulations by the US federal government and other states, an expert told the Global Chemical Regulation Conference on Tuesday.

Heather Demirjian, an associate at law firm Blank Rome LLP, said the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will issue a formal green chemistry rule in the late spring or early summer with the goal of adopting regulations by the end of 2010.

The California green chemistry laws require the establishment of a toxic information clearinghouse and a process for identifying chemicals of concern in consumer products, with the goal of reducing or eliminating chemical hazards in consumers’ products and the environment, said Demirjian.

The green chemistry laws task DTSC to collaborate with the California Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment to develop a database of roughly 80,000 chemicals and make it accessible to the public. The database would contain hazard traits as well as environmental impact and toxicity data for each chemical.

Under the regulations, California will consult with other states, the US federal government, and international governments to gain information on chemicals. In December, the state entered into its first international information-sharing agreement with the nation of Denmark.

The green chemistry laws also require DTSC to identify and prioritise chemicals of concern in consumer products.

On 23 February, DTSC released a draft of a conceptual flowchart intended to lead to the development of regulatory language for chemical identification. The flowchart describes processes for prioritisation of chemicals of concern, assessment of alternatives for those chemicals, and a regulatory response to the chemical considered.

DTSC would consider alternatives to potentially hazardous chemicals and then consider a range of actions, from enacting no changes to the law governing each chemical to outright banning the chemical.

The regulations do recognise a need to protect trade secrets and confidential business information, Demirjian said, but companies cannot refuse to release hazardous trait information on chemicals.

In addition, if public agencies are in possession of information considered trade secretive by chemical producers, those agencies can exchange that information or release it to the public without permission of the company under the current regulatory proposal. However, it would have to inform the company that it is doing so.

Ann Mason, senior director for chlorine science and health policy at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said the American Chemical Society (ACS) has started an initiative to adopt a voluntary framework for green chemistry ahead of most regulatory initiatives.

The goals of voluntary green chemistry standards would be to respond to requests, to normalise framework for business-to-business communication, and to form a foundation for informed decision-making regarding the design, development and manufacture of chemical products in an effort to reduce their impact on human health or the environment, Mason said..

The standards would embrace incremental improvements, but truly encourage real breakthroughs while acknowledging that not all green chemistry and green engineering principles are applicable in every situation, Mason said.

ACS anticipates a draft of the standards by early June, to be followed by revisions and a 45-day public comment period.

Once the standards committee incorporates the comments, publication of the final standard would occur six to eight weeks later, she said.

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Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives in Green Chemicals

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