Download PDF
July 18, 2011

Green Ribbon Science Panel Meets to Discuss Safer Consumer Product Alternatives Regulations

The ACTA Group

The Green Ribbon Science Panel (Panel) met on July 14-15, 2011, to discuss potential revisions to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC) Safer Consumer Product Alternatives (SCPA) regulations, as required by AB 1879. Under AB 1879 and Health and Safety Code (HSC) 25253, DTSC is required to adopt regulations “that establish a process for evaluating chemicals of concern in consumer products, and their potential alternatives, to determine how best to limit exposure or to reduce the level of hazard posed by a chemical of concern.” The Panel had previously convened three Subcommittees that met between May 31 and June 16, to discuss issues related to the alternatives assessments (AA) process. For more information on these three Subcommittees, please see our memorandum available online.

The Panel meeting opened with an introduction from Debbie Raphael, recently appointed as DTSC Director. Raphael also concluded the meeting by providing a timeline for the release and review of revised SCPA regulations. Specifically, DTSC plans by mid-October 2011 to release “informal” regulations for public review. Raphael stated that based on DTSC’s experience with the last release of SCPA regulations, DTSC understands that the public comment period must be more than 15 days. In addition, DTSC will convene the Panel on November 14-15, 2011, to meet to discuss and comment upon the informal regulations. Before the release of the informal regulations, Raphael stated that DTSC also plans to reach out to stakeholders on specific issues that have not been covered by the Panel.

During the Panel meeting, the following issues were discussed. It should be noted that while different options on several issues were raised and discussed during these meetings, DTSC stated that these options are those that have been raised by Panel members and do not represent DTSC’s proposal or perspective on these issues. It will not be until the informal regulations are released that DTSC will indicate the scope of these regulations and the options and pathways it selected.

  • Alternatives Assessment Process: Under HSC 25253, the AA process is required to include life cycle assessment tools that take into consideration at least the following elements: (1) product function or performance; (2) useful life; (3) materials and resource consumption; (4) water conservation; (5) water quality impacts; (6) air emissions; (7) production, in-use, and transportation energy inputs; (8) energy efficiency; (9) greenhouse gas emissions; (10) water and end-of-life disposal; (11) public health impacts, including potential impacts to sensitive subpopulations, including infants and children; (12) environmental impacts; and (13) economic impacts. The Panel discussed possibilities for grouping and/or prioritizing these 13 factors. The Panel also discussed a potential “tiered” AA process under which an identified priority product would be evaluated against certain criteria, alternatives would be identified, an initial screening of potential alternative chemicals would be conducted, and then a more qualitative assessment screen and in-depth assessment could be performed. Other topics included the timeline for completing AAs, specifically whether there should be a standardized timeline or timelines assigned by DTSC or determined between DTSC and the manufacturer depending on the complexity of the case, and the possibility of providing “trade offs” to be offered by the manufacturer for any or some subset of the 13 factors.
  • Quality Assurance for AAs: DTSC has stated that it will not have sufficient resources to conduct an in-depth review of AAs. The Panel discussed several issues related to how the regulations could include provisions to ensure the quality and integrity of AAs performed by the product manufacturer, as well as AAs conducted by independent third-parties or those made fully available for public review. Specifically, the Panel discussed topics related to the potential qualification requirements for AA assessors and validators, and how those qualifications apply to individuals or companies. There were also discussions on the requirements for maintaining these qualifications. The Panel further discussed how completed AAs can be validated and the issues that may arise from companies claiming information in the AAs as confidential business information.

The agenda, meeting notice, and other meeting materials for the July 14-15, 2011, Panel meeting are available online.