In the waning hours before a key legislative deadline, the California Assembly passed a bill requiring the evaluation of short-chain PFASs in food contact materials (FCMs).
The bill (AB 958) calls for the state Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) to revise its Priority Product Work Plan under its’ Safer Consumer Products (SCP) program to include FCMs containing perfluoroalkyl or poly-fluoroalkyl substances.
If the bill becomes law, the legislation will direct DTSC to identify the product-substance pair no later than Jan. 1, 2019 as a draft priority product and, within a year, adopt regulations to address them.
The measure was passed by a 44-28 vote in a marathon floor session. AB 958 now heads to the state Senate.
Fierce Industry Coalition Opposition Falls Short
Prior to the floor vote, the California Chamber of Commerce wrote to Assembly members urging their opposition to the bill. The Chamber opposed the bill on behalf of a coalition of more than a dozen industry groups including:
· the American Chemistry Council (ACC);
· the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA);
· the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA); and
· the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA).
Industry concerns include the fact that the legislation directs the DTSC not only to name FCMs with PFASs a priority product, but also to move them to the formal rulemaking phase.
The coalition organizations said the floor vote "arbitrarily rejects the possibility that a DTSC review could result in a determination that rulemaking is not necessary." .
Andria Ventura, toxics program manager for Clean Water Action (CWA) – which co-sponsored the legislation says that the measure that put the SCP regulation in place also allows for the legislature to put product/chemical combinations into the regulatory process.
The SCP program, said Ms. Ventura, is "by its very nature deliberate", and it can therefore take many years for the DTSC to address a "major exposure pathway – if it ever does".
Ventura said the department's addressing PFASs in FCMs is particularly appropriate given that it is already gathering data on the substances in other product types.
"Manufacturers will always be able to make the scientific case that the chemicals they are using are the best choices. I think that will be a hard case to make given the emerging evidence about even the newer PFASs and the fact that around 60 percent of products don't include this class of chemicals at all," she added.
As currently drafted, the bill also calls for a prohibition on the manufacture or sale of any product containing PFASs with eight or more carbon atoms.
But Ventura said the authors of the legislation have stated their intention to amend this ban out of the bill in the Senate.
During the Assembly's consideration of the measure, industry groups protested that the proposed prohibition of long-chain fluorinated chemistry was "overly broad, and technically inaccurate.