California chemical regs may cut consumer products in the state

25 February 2013 19:59  [Source: ICIS news]

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland (ICIS)--California’s new chemicals control rule may force some producers to stop doing business in the state, raise the cost of consumer goods and eliminate many products from store shelves, a top industry official said on Monday.

Bill Allmond, vice president for government and public relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), said that the impending Safer Consumer Products Regulations (SCPR) “will be absolutely impossible to implement and consequently will have a major impact on the availability of a wide range of consumer products in the state”.

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is scheduled to begin enforcement in April, although that deadline might slip, as have earlier implementation target dates.

Under the rule, manufacturers of any one of some 1,200 “chemicals of concern” that are an end component in a consumer product must identify and examine the viability of safer alternative substances and provide an alternative assessment (AA) to the toxic substances office.

However, Allmond noted, the concept of “consumer product” is very broadly defined in the law and includes, for example, buildings and airliners.

If a safer alternative is not available, DTSC will outline steps the manufacturer must take to ensure the product is safely used, disposed of and, ultimately, phased out of production.

Allmond said the pending final rule would in the first instance be prohibitively expensive, at least for many of SOCMA’s smaller specialty chemical and batch producers.  Each “alternative assessment” is expected to cost as much as $300,000 (€228,000), Allmond said, noting that some producers might be facing scores of individual substance assessments.

But aside from the costs, Allmond said, the rule is, in his view, simply infeasible.

In addition to DTSC’s review of a company’s alternative substance proposal, the alternate chemical component is posted on a public website, and the manufacturer must by law respond to each individual citizen question or comment.

The DTSC website also will provide details on the chemical composition of the listed substance and the proposed alternative, what SOCMA and other industry groups consider a grave risk to their confidential business information (CBI).

Faced with the costs, risks to proprietary information and the simple immensity of the SCPR registration and testing tasks, Allmond said that some SOCMA members have already decided that they will have to stop doing business in California.

“We think that a lot of companies are simply not going to continue manufacturing in California or stop sending chemicals manufactured elsewhere into California,” he said.

“This could have major impact on the availability of consumer products in California,” he added. 

“In the first place, companies that decide to go forward with the alternative assessment process for multiple products will have to pass those costs on to consumers, so prices are certain to rise,” he said.

Ultimately, he said, as the rule takes full effect and a number of producers simply abandon California, “you’re going to be walking into stores and find that a lot of the products you used to use and you rely on won’t be there”.

Producers may have no recourse to the SCPR other than the courts, Allmond said.

There are no reports of any producers challenging the law in federal or state courts, but that may be because the SCPR has not yet been implemented and potential plaintiffs consequently cannot yet show evidence of harm.

Allmond spoke on the side-lines of the annual GlobalChem international chemical regulatory conference. The three-day event is cosponsored by SOCMA and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and runs through Wednesday.

($1 = €0.76)

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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