California passes green chemistry legislation

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Toxic substances control

Arnold Schwarzenegger has put his signature to green chemistry legislation in California that promises to remove politics from the evaluation of disputed chemicals.

State governor Schwarzenegger has signed two bills into law that aim to establish a science-based process for tackling potentially toxic chemicals and therefore prevent lobby groups and political interests from determining the content of consumer goods.

New system and powers

A.B. 1879 gives the California Department of Toxic Substances Control authority, for the first time, to regulate chemicals in consumer products.

Under the legislation, the department will have the authority to identify, evaluate and even ban potentially harmful chemicals.

To exercise these new powers in the best interests of consumers, state regulators will have to develop a science-based program to identify chemicals of concern, evaluate them and analyze alternatives.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control has until January 1, 2011 to put this process in place and it will also have to establish a Green Ribbon Science Panel for advisory purposes.

Online information resource

The other bill signed into law by Schwarzenegger was S.B. 509 which requires the establishment of an online Toxic Information Clearinghouse.

This will provide consumers and businesses with information about the toxicity and hazards of chemicals used in everyday life.

Signing the bills in Los Angeles this week Schwarzenegger said: “With these two bills, we will stop looking at toxics as an inevitable byproduct of industrial production.

“Instead they will be something that can be removed from every product in the design stage - protecting people's health and our environment.”

Criticism of the legislation

However the legislation is not without its critics. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) claims it is watered down and devoid of substance.

“We hope we're wrong,”​ said EWG president Richard Wiles. “But these bills do not establish a human health safety standard or public health goal for chemicals of concern or their prospective substitutes. In fact, they are completely devoid of any tangible commitment to protect the health of the people of California.

“They provide a statutory shield for chemical companies who want to delay health protections and preserve the status quo while bureaucrats ponder the problem.”

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