News Analysis

California Sets Up Toxic Chemicals Registry

Under two new laws, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has until 2011 to develop a process for identifying and evaluating potentially dangerous chemicals and to set up a searchable online database where consumers can find information on chemicals. The law follows in the footsteps of chemical evaluation programs in the European Union and Canada but is the first such legislation in the U.S. Both of California’s new laws arose from recommendations made by the Green Chemistry Initiative, a group formed as part of the California Environmental Protection Agency to examine opportunities for reducing the impacts of toxic substances in the state. Assembly Bill 1879 not only requires DTSC to develop a way to prioritize and list chemicals of concern and analyze alternatives to those chemicals but also gives the department authority to act on the results of chemical assessments. The department can choose a wide variety of actions, including restrictions and bans. The bill also creates a Green Ribbon Science Panel to advise DTSC. Senate Bill 509 addresses consumer interaction with DTSC’s work, creating an online Toxics Information Clearinghouse.

The Healthy Building Network’s Tom Lent called the legislation a “mixed blessing,” noting that California was taking steps that “the federal government should have taken decades ago.” On the other hand, Lent said, a registry approach can lead to long delays before the government takes action on problematic chemicals. He added that the legislation is “already being misused by the governor as an excuse to delay action on chemicals already identified as hazardous,” referring to two bills vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who cited the Green Chemistry Initiative as a better way to control the chemicals. One of the bills would have banned bisphenol-A, a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and considered hazardous by many (see


Published October 29, 2008

Wendt, A. (2008, October 29). California Sets Up Toxic Chemicals Registry. Retrieved from