Combining science and business, green chemistry promises a new generation of safer substitutes for hazardous ingredients, renewable raw materials for everyday products and chemicals that don’t persist in the environment at the end of their lifecycles. The goal: stimulate a new consumer products economy that designs, manufactures and uses safe, toxic-free processes and products.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC) Safer Consumer Products (SCP) Regulation is a new program designed to help reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products and create new business opportunities. This program informs consumers and businesses struggling to identify chemicals in the products that they are purchasing for their families and customers. The SCP Program will rely on reports submitted by manufacturers to report and encourage using safer chemicals.

This program identifies specific products containing potentially harmful chemicals and asks manufacturers two questions: 1) Is the chemical necessary?; 2) Is there a safer alternative?

These regulations have major implications on product development. Alternate formulations would be required if the chemical-use combination made it onto the California Department of Toxic Substances Control targets. Targeted chemicals have potential to contribute or cause significant or widespread adverse impacts among consumers. Eliminating these chemical-use combinations would potentially protect workers, too. The program has four major components:                               

Candidate chemicals identification

The candidate chemicals list is based on identifying chemicals that exhibit a hazard trait (e.g., mutagen, carcinogen, neurotoxin, respiratory sensitizer, endocrine disruptor, etc.) and/or environmental or toxicological endpoint.

Candidate chemicals exhibit hazardous traits or toxic endpoints found on one or more of the authoritative lists specified in the regulation or listed by DTSC using the criteria included in the regulation.

In addition to its name and Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number (CAS RN), the informational Candidate Chemicals list specifies the basis for each chemical’s listing (i.e., authoritative list name). The purpose is to inform stakeholders about chemicals that might be named as Chemicals of Concern if they are identified as part of a product-chemical combination that is listed as a Priority Product.

Identify priority products with chemicals of concern

A Priority Product is a consumer product that contains one or more chemicals – known as Candidate Chemicals – that have a hazard trait that can be harmful to people or the environment. On March 13, 2014, a proposed list of three product-chemical combinations was released, including:

1) Children’s foam padded sleep products with TDCPP (Chlorinated Tris)

• Nap mats and cots

• Sleep positioners

• Travel beds

• Car bed pads

• Portable crib pads

• Bassinet foam

• Play pens or play yards

TDCPP is a flame retardant that is a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. It may affect children and infants through dust inhalation or skin absorption. Alternatively, flame retardants are not required by law.

2) Paint strippers and surface cleaners with methylene chloride

• Paint strippers

• Varnish removers

Methylene chloride is toxic to the nervous system and is metabolized to carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas toxic to humans and animals when encountered in high concentrations. Individuals who use these products are exposed through inhalation or with inadequate ventilation. Identified alternatives to methylene chloride include benzyl alcohol and dimethyl glutarate.

3) Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) systems with unreacted diisocyanates (MDI, HDI, TDI)

• Systems with unreacted materials

• System components react and cure

• Home and building insulation

• Weatherizing and sealing components

• Roofing

SPF is a respiratory sensitizer that is known to be the leading cause of occupational asthma. Individuals may be affected through inhalation of uncured/wet diisocyanates. Alternatives to SPF include cellulose and fiberglass; however, spray alternatives remain unknown.

Alternatives analysis

A wide variety of chemicals is on the Candidate Chemicals list. Not all are found in consumer products. Still, manufacturers of consumer products can use this list to identify chemicals to evaluate whether viable safer alternatives to these candidate chemicals are available. It also might be helpful to avoid “regrettable substitutions” of one candidate chemical for another. Manufacturers able to produce safer products will have an upper hand in marketing their products. Consumers can use the list learn about the chemicals that may be present in the products they are purchasing.

Regulatory response

DTSC may require regulatory responses for a priority product if the manufacturer decides to retain the use of that product or for an alternate product selected to replace the priority product. Possible regulatory responses include: no response; additional information to DTSC; additional information to consumers; additional safety measures; restrictions/prohibitions on sales; end-of-life product stewardship; research funding.

More information about the program is available on the DTSC web site at

Will green chemistry regulations be reproduced in other jurisdictions throughout the country? Remember, California initiatives are often harbingers of regulations to come.