Tom Lent | March 13, 2014
“Is it necessary?” That’s the key question the State of California is asking about chemicals in consumer products that are known to cause serious harm to people or the environment. The state took a small but very significant step today in its Safer Consumer Product program, identifying the first three product-chemical combinations they plan to evaluate for regulation. Two are actively used in construction. There are compelling cases for getting rid of each of them:
Avoidance of isocyanates will be the most challenging of the three. While in some applications, such as wall cavities, spray cellulose or fiberglass can easily replace SPF, in other applications such as crack sealing or roof coatings, there are no clear alternatives. This is a clear challenge to the industry to gear up alternatives research. It is also potentially a big opportunity for new insulation types, such as Ecovative's mycelium based, grow-in-place insulation to enter the market.
State officials reiterated that this is “not a ban” but rather the “start of a conversation with the people of California” on whether these chemicals are necessary and to encourage safer use or replacement or alternatives. Eventually the state could issue similar challenges to uses of any of the other 1100 priority chemicals listed by the state as candidates. All of the California Safer Consumer Product program chemical lists are now searchable in the Pharos Chemical & Material Library .
The list of three product-chemical combinations released today is only a draft list. It will be subject to public hearings this summer before rulemaking to finalize regulations for each. It could be as much as two years before manufacturers must undertake alternatives analyses for their use of the chemicals or substitutions. Nonetheless, this week’s action represents an important step forward to questioning the use of toxic chemicals in products.