The U.S. Organic Consumers Association reports that hundreds of items found on supermarket shelves, such as shampoos, cleaning supplies, cosmetics and food packaging, could get chemical makeovers under new rules being put in force by California from October 1, 2013.
State toxic chemical regulators will unveil what they say is the nation’s most comprehensive program for identifying and reformulating common consumer products containing hazardous chemicals. In the past, the state took a piecemeal approach. Lawmakers would ban specific chemicals from particular products, such as bisphenol A in baby bottles and sippy cups.
That’s being replaced by a more systematic approach. Under the new rules the state will identify classes of products for review, such as nail polish. Manufacturers will then have to perform detailed analyses to justify whether hazardous chemicals are needed or whether substitutes are available.
“They have to look at alternatives and identify one that is in fact safer,” said Debbie Raphael, director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. The rules are “practical, meaningful and legally defensible” against potential industry lawsuits, she said.
And the Center for Environmental Health, based in Oakland, California, did some independent laboratory tests on 98 shampoos and soaps to determine if they contained cocamide diethanolamine, also known as cocamide DEA, a chemical that is outlawed in the state of California because it is possibly carcinogenic to humans. The ingredient is a chemically modified form of coconut oil that acts as thickener or foaming agent.
Some of the products that contain high levels of the illegal chemical are sold under well-known companies such as Colgate Palmolive, Paul Mitchell, and Prell. Lab tests also found the carcinogen in California reviews toxic substances; listed chemical in shampoo children’s products, such as a store brand bubble bath from KMart, and a shampoo/ conditioner from Babies R Us. Other store brand products that contain the carcinogen came from Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Kohl’s.
The Center for Environmental Health is holding the companies accountable under Proposition 65, which has a requirement to inform consumers in California of significant amounts of listed chemicals in consumer products. The CEH is suing Walgreens, Lake Consumer Products, Vogue International, and the manufacturer of Prell.