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Washington Issues Green Chemistry Alternatives Assessment Guidance

Date: Jun 06, 2012

The August, 2012 deadline for the largest companies to report on the presence of listed chemicals in children's products under Washington State's "Green Chemistry" initiative is edging closer. In the meantime, the state is leading the development of Alternatives Assessment Guidance, a framework to identify "safer" alternatives to the 66 substances listed under the Washington law. Washington is the first state to offer guidance on conducting alternatives assessments (AA). Notably, Washington does not have the authority to require companies subject to reporting under its green chemistry initiative to submit an AA. However, its involvement in an Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse that includes seven other states makes the guidance especially noteworthy, since some state green chemistry laws include a requirement that reporting companies must submit AA reports.

The Guidance was developed through the State's designated Technical Alternatives Assessment Guidance Team (TAAG), which includes representatives from the seven states who are members of the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse. The Guidance is based on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) principles. The Guidance will include twelve modules:

1.  Initial evaluation
2.  Identification of alternatives
3.  Pre-screening evaluation
4.  Hazard evaluation
5.  Exposure considerations
6.  Performance
7.  Commercially availability and cost effectiveness
8.  Stakeholder Involvement
9.  Social, worker and environmental justice and other related concerns
10. Material flow assessment
11. Life cycle considerations/avoiding shifting risks
12. Decision making methodology

The proposed modules were agreed by members of the TAAG and are believed to cover all aspects of existing assessments. It also includes an added module on environmental justice. Not all modules will apply to every assessment, however. An outline of each module will be posted for stakeholder review and comment. The modules currently available for review include:


 

The Guidance places more emphasis on human health than environmental factors, but both are included in the AA process. The hazard criteria in the Guidance originated from DfE. The exposure criteria are based on information from the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The life cycle analysis module is based on work being conducted in the European Union and in California's Green Chemistry program. California is still working to finalize implementing regulations under its program. Washington's Green Chemistry program, unlike the broader California program, applies principally to specified children's products.

Green Screen is a preferred tool, but is not the exclusive approach to AAs in Washington. Green Screen is based on the DfE criteria and evaluates 18 hazard endpoints, ranking chemicals from least to most hazardous. The complexity of the Green Screen process lead the Washington Department of Ecology to offer a Quick Chemical Assessment Tool (QCAT). The QCAT can be used for simple AAs, but is not intended to replace Green Screen or DfE methodology.

Washington State has no legislative authority to require Alternatives Assessments so will not approve or disapprove AAs done by businesses. California has the authority to require AAs, and as a member of the Clearinghouse may decide to use the Guidance. Other states, such as Maine, are not members of the Clearing House but do have authority to require submission of an alternatives assessment. While Maine has already required reporting for the two listed chemical families (nonylphenol/nonylphenol ethoxolates and bisphenol a (BPA)), Maine's legislation references use of Green Screen as a tool for the state to conduct AAs. There is, however, no specific process in place for reporting companies to submit AAs in Maine.

The development of Washington's Alternatives Assessment Guidance is ongoing, and there is still an opportunity for comment. The TAAG would like to complete the work by the end of 2012, but Washington State notes that it is a complex project. The need to balance functionality, overall product safety and cost, and to evaluate tradeoffs, especially since in many applications there is likely no consumer exposure to the priority chemical, adds to the practical challenge.

As noted above, the largest companies will be subject to reporting to Washington "intentionally added" priority chemicals in any amount, as well as the presence of unintentional contaminants in excess of 100 ppm. While they will not have to submit an AA as part of their reports, the AA guidance, including the reliance on Green Screen and DfE, may be relevant to requirement for an alternatives assessment in the future in other states. Additional information can be found at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/hwtr/chemalternatives/altAssessment.html.

For more information on state green chemistry requirements, contact Sheila A. Millar (+1 202. 434.4143, millar@khlaw.com) or Jean-Cyril Walker (+1 202.434.4181, walker@khlaw.com).

Technical questions can be directed to Diana G. Graham (+1 415.948.2805, graham@khlaw.com).