California may get its share of bad press, but this is one area where we could all learn from the Golden State. In an impressive move, California is proposing sweeping new restrictions on the toxins that can be present in consumer goods ranging from electronics to cosmetics and cleaners. Hopefully, as we saw with BPA bans in children’s products, the less toxic products will be available to the rest of the country as well.
The Safer Consumer Products Regulations would not only seek to notify consumers of a much larger list of harmful chemicals in products but would also force companies to seek out less toxic alternatives as they phase out toxins, perform research, and other proposed steps. Companies not in compliance could face fines of $25,000 per day.
Moving Away From “Safe Until Proven Dangerous”
While presuming innocence until proven guilty is a concept that works in our justice system, it has shown to be ineffective in dealing with toxic substances. For example, jewelry manufacturers phased out the use of lead in favor of cadmium, another cheap yet toxic metal. Without evaluating the safety of cadmium, manufacturers substituted one harmful substance for another.
While the legislation looks promising, there are many hurtles for policy makers to overcome as they take the fight into 2012. Industry fears “chemophobia” gripping consumers. The cost of implementation and enforcement are unknown. The practicalities of running a regulatory program are daunting. A major challenge lies in designing the regulations in a way that prevents manufacturer from simply hiding product information more effectively than they already do.
“There is an equal feeling across the planet — an unease — with evidence of harm that we are seeing in the natural world, the buildup of chemicals in our bodies that we were never evolved to deal with, and a realization that the source of those chemicals probably isn’t only the manufacturing but actually consumer products,” said Debbie Raphael, director of the toxics control agency.
It’s not chemophobia, it’s a healthy dose of reality. Look for opportunities to support consumer-friendly product safety changes!
You can find this and many other green posts at SNSPost.com.