Manufacturers Face Tougher Product Regulations

As part of its push for safer consumer products, California has announced tougher regulation around the chemicals that often make their way into children’s sleeping mats, home insulation, and paint thinners.

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) systems, children’s foam padded sleeping products, paint and varnish strippers, and surface cleaners are all coming under close scrutiny from California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).

This is just the beginning for California. It’s estimated that this shortlist of three chemicals could expand into hundreds of product types over the next decade. The DTSC is set to announce the next group of offending chemicals October 2014.

The new rule, expected to be finalized at the end of this year, is part of California’s push to meet the compliance obligations of a broader set of safer consumer product regulations, better known as the green chemistry rules.

The DTSC will hold talks with manufacturers this spring to discuss the impact of the named toxic materials on air quality, water quality, and other exposure pathways, as well as the potential ramifications of the regulation on manufacturers and distributors. The DTSC will look at the entire product lifecycle including raw material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, recycle and disposal.

Manufacturers should pay close attention to the regulation and, where possible, take preemptive measures to identify which (if any) of their products contain the offending materials. Outside of California, manufacturers should prepare for the likelihood that these regulations will be extended to other states in the near future.

What does the new regulation require of manufacturers?

Once the new regulation goes into effect, manufacturers (or importer, assembler, or retailer) must provide written notification to the DTSC within 60 days that they have either:

  • Removed the listed chemical from their product
  • Replaced the listed chemical
  • Stopped selling the product in California

If a product contains trace amounts of the listed chemicals (below the allotted threshold) then manufacturers must take steps to prove this through documentation.

For those manufacturers that do have products containing the offending chemicals and can’t immediately replace the chemical or stop its sale in California, they must begin, thorough analysis of their products, exploring how they might be able to make a product differently without the chemical of concern, and comparing the potential environmental and health effects along the lifecycles of the alternative material and design choices.

How should manufacturers prepare?

Manufacturers and supply chain professionals do have an opportunity to shape the impending new regulation, but scrambling to react to compliance regulation as it happens isn’t the best strategy.

Companies must develop a long-term compliance strategy that allows them to be proactive.

A great compliance strategy includes review and enhancement of supplier training and communication, full transparency of the ingredients in products, robust data collection on each potentially hazardous chemical, and proper product risk assessment.

Learn more about how you can track and manage your compliance.

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