Washington State to Follow California in an Action to Restrict Priority Chemicals

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May 17, 2019 - Jomarie Garcia

Washington state legislators aim to follow California’s example in restricting the use of priority chemicals in products for children and other consumer products. Passed by the legislature on 25 April 2019, An Act Relating to Preventing Toxic Pollution that Affects Public Health or the Environment, Bill No. 5135, is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

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Provided the governor signs it into law, the act would require the Department of Ecology to shortlist five priority chemicals as well as five consumer products that use or are a significant source of these chemicals, every five years.

The criteria for designation as priority chemical include:

  • Chemicals identified as a high priority chemical of high concern for children under chapter 70.240 RCW
  • Persistent, bioaccumulative toxins (PBT) under chapter 70.105 RCW
  • Chemicals in consumer products regulated under chapter 70.240, 70.76, 70.95G, 70.280, 70.285, 70.95M or 70.75A RCW
  • Hazardous chemicals regulated under chapter 70.105 or 70.105D RCW
  • Chemicals of concern for sensitive populations based on their hazardous traits or toxicological endpoints, their aggregate or cumulative effects, or their potential to degrade or metabolize, among others.

Chemicals that fit the above criteria could be subject to further regulatory action to reduce harmful exposures.

Currently California is the only other state to regulate priority chemicals in similar fashion, under its Safer Consumer Products regulations.

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Required to notify

On an annual basis, manufacturers of consumer products and children’s products containing high priority chemicals would need to disclose their ingredients to the department. Based on the information received, the department could restrict the use of priority chemicals in the products described if a safer alternative is available and would reduce the source or use of the chemical. The law defines safer alternative as “an alternative that is less hazardous to humans or the environment than the existing chemical or chemical process. A safer alternative to a particular chemical may include a chemical substitute or a change in materials or design that eliminates the need for a chemical alternative.”

Non-compliance

Businesses that fail to comply with the notification requirements could be subject to sanctions that include civil penalties of $5,000 per violation for the first offence and $10,000 per violation for repeated offenses.

Statutory timelines

If signed, the law would impose strict deadlines on the department to implement the act. The following are the timelines set by statute:

  • 1 June 2020: identify priority consumer products that are a significant source of or use significant amounts of priority chemicals
  • 1 June 2022: determine regulatory actions regarding the priority chemicals identified on 1 June 2020
  • 1 June 2024: select at least five priority chemicals for subsequent review
  • 1 June 2025: identify priority consumer products containing the new priority chemicals identified on 1 June 2024
  • 1 June 2027: determine regulatory actions for the priority chemicals in the priority products identified on 1 June 2025
  • 1 June 2028: adopt rules to implement regulatory actions on the priority consumer products identified on 1 June 2024

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