EDITORIAL: State targets chemicals in consumer products

FresnoMarch 14, 2014 

Some spray insulation foam can have serious respiratory effects.


They are not necessarily the worst chemicals found in consumer products. Nor are the three chemicals targeted in the first crackdown of the state's Safer Consumer Products program the most ubiquitous.

They made the most unwanted list because they are contained in commonly used consumer products -- infant sleep mats and two home-improvement products -- and pose a serious health threat to users.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control on Thursday unveiled the first three "priority" products containing dangerous chemicals. State regulators say they will work with manufacturers to reformulate with less dangerous chemicals. This is a first-of-its-kind program that has the potential to change environmental health policy in this country.

The chemical industry likely will sue to block the California regulation, and the influential American Chemistry Council is lobbying for congressional legislation that would preempt California.

The rollout of the "green chemistry" initiative signed into law in 2008 has been slow in coming. Last fall, the bureau adopted regulations and identified chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic or pose other health threats.

The department picked its first three priority products wisely. First on the list is a product sure to raise the hackles of every parent: a nap mat for babies that is manufactured with foam containing TDCPP, commonly referred to as chlorinated Tris. This flame retardant, linked to cancer, was banned decades ago for use in children's sleepwear but is still regularly used in furniture and baby products. These mats are sold at major retail outlets such as Target and Babies R Us, according to environmental activists.

No. 2 on the list may be in your garage: a spray insulation foam containing diisocyanates with serious respiratory effects. The foam is sold under a number of brand names, including Great Stuff, and can be found in most home-improvement stores. It's not great stuff at all for those who breathe in the foam fumes without protective gear, and it has been particularly problematic for workers who use it on a regular basis.

The third targeted product is paint stripper containing methylene chloride, a chemical so toxic it has killed people who used it in close spaces. This is sold under a variety of brand names, such as Jasco and Klean-Strip.

On Thursday, the American Chemistry Council responded with skepticism. "As implementation proceeds, ACC, our member companies and other trade associations have continued to express concerns about whether the program in its current form will achieve the Department's long standing goal of a 'practical, meaningful and legally defensible' regulatory program."

Those sound like fighting words. It's a fight worth having for the health of the state.

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