Stopping Bad Chemistry: CA’s Environmental Health Communities Stand Up for Real Safer Product Regulations

In 2006, the University of California sent the report, “Green Chemistry in California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and Innovation,” to the California legislature. The report inspired Cal/EPA Secretary Linda Adams to launch the Green Chemistry Initiative (GCI), a set of legislation designed to fundamentally change California’s approach to environmental protection and reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals from use. However, after several years of development, last minute revisions to Safer Product Regulations within this initiative, threatened to undermine the intent of GCI.

Several lawmakers criticized the DTSC revisions, including the author of AB 1879, Assembly Member Mike Feuer who stated, “The revised proposal not only fails to address the flaws of the earlier version but compounds them by fundamentally altering the approach called for under legislation I authored. I cannot support the revised proposal.”

In a letter to Assembly Member Feuer, the Secretary for Environmental Protection, Linda S. Adams, stated, “I have asked DTSC and its regulation development team to reconvene the Green Ribbon Science Panel early next year to further vet the programmatic issues that have been brought to our attention via the public comment process. This additional time and expertise will help ensure that the vision behind this component of the Green Chemistry Initiative and implementing statue AB 1879 is fully realized.”

Physicians for Social Responsibility is an active member of the CHANGE (Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy) coalition, which has been an active and leading voice in the rebuttal of the revised Green Chemistry Initiative. Through a quickly organized online campaign, Californians sent hundreds of messages to DTSC and the Governor, opposing the last minute stripping of the proposal which undermined the original intent of the legislation. These changes have been criticized by CHANGE and other public interest groups for many reasons, notably because the revised proposal places the burden of proof of harmful chemicals on DTSC, and encourages harmful chemical substitutions rather than safe alternatives. Former CHANGE Campaign Director Ansje Miller described the revisions as a “last-minute bait-and-switch” by the state’s leadership and urged California to follow its history of environmental leadership. rather than pass the new regulations which would set a bad example for the rest of the nation.

If passed in its current state, the Green Chemistry Initiative would fail to provide safer product regulation and would therefore fail to protect Californians from hazardous chemicals. Because of the diligence and ongoing efforts of organizations like CHANGE, the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry and many other groups and individuals, the Green Chemistry Initiative may still be reworked into a piece of legislation that actually provides more consumer protection from hazardous chemicals. The Initiative will return to the Green Ribbon Science Panel next year and may receive new direction under the incoming Brown Administration.

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