Several industry and business groups are alarmed by the sweeping scope of a state proposal to regulate potentially harmful chemicals in consumer products.
The preliminary proposal from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control unveiled last month would require manufacturers and sellers of consumer products to identify whether their products contain one or more of an estimated 10,000 “chemicals of concern.” The manufacturer or seller would then conduct an analysis to determine whether a safer chemical is available and can be used. Eventually, many of the chemicals of concern would be banned.
DTSC officials said the proposal is a starting point for discussion of how to implement the state’s Green Chemistry Program and was intentionally broad in its scope.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Green Chemistry Program into law in 2008; its goal is to prod manufacturers to use nontoxic chemicals in their products. Advocates said the program would protect public health and reduce harmful waste.
DTSC spokeswoman Mercedes Azar said that a more realistic proposal is set for release in February. A final regulation must be passed by January 2011.
But 25 trade and business groups said they are very concerned about the direction the DTSC is heading in; they have formed the Green Chemistry Alliance to lobby for moderate regulation. Members of the coalition include the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, the California Paint Council, the Personal Care Products Council and the Chemical Industry Council of California.
“This could affect the manufacture and sale of millions of products in this state,” said Robert Callahan, policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce.
“Even if you have a minute quantity of one of these 10,000 chemicals, an amount that has not been found to pose any health or environmental risk, you must still conduct an exhaustive study of alternative chemicals and eventually phase that chemical out,” Callahan said of the initial proposal. “If anything remotely like this ever passed, it would devastate business.”
Callahan said the Green Chemistry Alliance has issued a counterproposal that would only include about 2,000 chemicals and would exempt products that contain quantities less than a threshold level deemed harmful to human health or the environment.
Starting this week, employers in California and across the nation must post a notice on their workplace bulletin boards stating that it is illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of genetic information.
The notice, which must be posted by Nov. 21, is the first step in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s implementation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act signed into law last year by then-President Bush. The act bars the use of genetic information to deny employment, promotions or coverage in group health plans.
Genetic information includes test results that indicate an individual has a genetic predisposition to certain types of cancer or other diseases. It does not include tests for drug or alcohol use.
Under Title II of the act, which takes effect Nov. 21, employers cannot require genetic information about current or prospective employees, and they cannot use genetic information to discriminate in hiring, firing or other terms of employment. Furthermore, any genetic information that comes to them otherwise must be kept in a confidential medical file.
Regulations for Title I of the act, which governs the use of genetic information by health providers, will be issued in coming months.
To download the notice, employers can log on to the EEOC’s Web site at EEOC.gov or on to the California Chamber of Commerce’s CalBizCentral Web site at CalBizCentral.com.
I.D. Theft Rule Delay
A federal rule that as of this month would have required many businesses to implement a written program to prevent identity theft has been delayed once again, until June 1, 2010, at the request of Congress.
The so-called “red flags” rule issued by the Federal Trade Commission will require businesses and organizations that grant credit or make loans to have a plan in place to guard against data breaches and identity theft and to implement the plan. Among the affected companies are auto dealers, department stores and other entities that issue their own credit cards, plus utility and phone companies.
Companies that don’t have a plan in place or properly implement that plan could be subject to fines from the FTC.
The rule was initially set to take effect in May but was delayed until Nov. 1 because many companies didn’t know about the rule. Last month, Congress asked for another delay.
The FTC has set up a toll-free help line for businesses seeking more information on the rule: (877) FTC-HELP.
Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at email@example.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.