California May Roll Back Cuts in Consumer Product Pollution

Carla Takemoto
Manager, Technical Evaluation Section
Stationary Sources Division
1001 I Street
PO Box 2815
Sacramento, CA 95812

Dear Ms. Takemoto,

Environmental Working Group thanks the Board for the careful consideration the agency has given to our previous recommendations regarding the proposed 2008 amendment to its Consumer Products Regulation. The update provided by CARB staff during the March 5th Consumer Products Regulation Workshop indicated that CARB analysts were evaluating several of the proposals outlined in our letter of February 1st, 2008.

However, modifications to the proposed 2008 amendment released for discussion prior to this Workshop do not as yet reflect a more health-protective stance towards volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) or toxic air contaminants. Instead, deadlines for compliance have been extended by 2 years for specific product categories, and one product category, Aerosol Fabric Protectants, was eliminated from the proposal altogether. This rollback of potential public health protections is unacceptable.

We write to reiterate the necessity for more protective regulations than those proposed by CARB, and to advocate for a reversal of the rollbacks proposed in this new draft that stand to significantly weaken the public health benefits that this regulation could provide. Specifically, we recommend that CARB strengthen the proposed regulation in the following ways:

  • Expedite VOC content limits for professional cleaning products;
  • Implement VOC content limits for Paint and Lacquer Thinners and Multipurpose Solvents;
  • Expedite nail salon emission evaluations;
  • Eliminate regulatory exemption of Spot Removers used for dry-cleaning; and
  • Reverse the 2-year extension proposed in this new draft and require compliance for all consumer product categories by 2010.

Details and our rationale for these recommendations are provided below.

Expedite VOC content limits for professional cleaning products. We are encouraged to hear that the Board plans to propose VOC content limits for all cleaning products later this year, following analysis of recently collected data. In the meantime, we ask that the Board adopt the proposal by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to limit VOC content to 1 percent by weight for three new product categories, Industrial and Institutional (I&I) General Purpose Cleaners, I&I General Purpose Degreasers, and I&I Glass Cleaners. SCAQMD conducted extensive research and product testing to determine that this proposal is “commercially and technologically feasible” and meets the requirement of Health and Safety Code 41712, which calls for regulations that maximize feasible VOC reductions.

By accelerating adoption of these VOC content limits for professional cleaning products, SCAQMD staff estimate VOC emissions in the state of California would be reduced by 4.5 tons each day, nearly doubling the pollution reduction potential of the proposed 2008 amendment. In addition to being a significant source of smog precursor chemicals, I&I cleaning products are also linked to the development or exacerbation of asthma (e.g. Pechter et al. 2005; Delclos et al. 2007), a serious health condition now considered an epidemic in our state. Therefore, we urge the Board to act now to protect public health and the environment by implementing health-based limits on the VOC content of these products.

CARB staff have expressed concerns regarding perceived difficulties in regulating professional cleaning products before they have determined appropriate VOC content limits for all other cleaning products. We are sure that the Board can find suitable solutions for all such concerns. For example, CARB scientists have remarked that it may be difficult to establish a regulation that applies to professional cleaning products only, as many consumer-grade household cleaners are used by professional cleaning services. It may be more appropriate to implement 1 percent VOC content limits for cleaning products that are substantially diluted with specialized equipment before they are used, thus creating a practical, use-based definition for I&I cleaning products. While we appreciate CARB’s goal to enact more health-protective VOC content limits for all cleaning products at a later date, this must not delay the implementation of standards for professional cleaning products via the 2008 amendment.

Implement VOC content limits for Paint and Lacquer Thinners and Multipurpose Solvents. We are further encouraged by the Board’s continuing work on two consumer product categories, Paint and Lacquer Thinner and Multipurpose Solvent, including their plans to provide a document outlining regulatory issues in the spring, as well as their plans to conduct a meeting of interested participants to discuss these issues. However, given the availability of low-VOC alternatives, and the compliance of industries within the SCAQMD with a 2.5 percent by weight VOC limit, we do not see the need for protracted discussion regarding these two product categories. We ask that CARB work quickly to propose health protective VOC limits for these product categories following discussion with relevant parties, and include these limits within the proposed 2008 amendment to the Consumer Products Regulation.

Expedite nail salon emission evaluations. We are pleased to learn that CARB scientists have begun to model the outdoor air contamination produced by nail salons. Xylene, toluene, formaldehyde, acetone, and dibutyl phthalate are toxic air contaminants that can be found in Nail Coatings. Assessing community-wide outdoor exposures to these contaminants will be a valuable addition to the growing body of science regarding exposures and health effects associated with these cosmetic ingredients. For example, Centers for Disease Control assessments of the general population indicate 97 percent of Americans are contaminated with dibutyl phthalate (CDC 2005). Recent epidemiological studies of Americans link dibutyl phthalate exposure with reduced levels of sperm function and alterations in hormone levels in adult men (Duty et al. 2003, 2004, 2005), and with altered reproductive systems and testosterone levels in baby boys (Swan et al. 2005; Main et al. 2006).

We ask that the Board provide a timeline regarding its research on outdoor air contamination from nail salons to the public. We further ask that CARB make every effort to complete its analysis promptly, such that the category of Nail Coatings can be regulated immediately pending peer review of the updated Maximum Incremental Reactivity method. The Board can protect the health of all Californians by establishing safety standards that result in reduced exposure to dibutyl phthalate and other Nail Coating ingredients from indoor and outdoor air sources.

Eliminate regulatory exemption of Spot Removers used for dry-cleaning. Discussions with CARB staff and independent experts have revealed that while an early exemption granted to the dry-cleaning industry regarding Spot Remover products is obsolete, there are no plans as yet for the Board to reexamine this issue and appropriately regulate these products. The Board should commit to a timeline that will enable evaluation of the composition of Spot Removers used in the dry-cleaning industry for inclusion in the 2008 amendment. Elimination of perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene from these products through CARB regulation will not only benefit public health and air quality, but also water quality as well.

Require compliance for all consumer product categories by 2010. The first version of the 2008 amendment to the Consumer Products Regulation specified that one product category, Multi-Purpose Lubricant, would have 2 additional years to meet the VOC content limits proposed. The second version of the 2008 amendment, discussed during the March 5th Workshop, included extension of the compliance deadline by 2 additional years for two more consumer product categories, Penetrant and Chemically Curing Sealant or Caulk.

Weakening key health protections through delay of compliance is unacceptable. We ask CARB to enforce compliance by 2010 for all consumer product categories mentioned in the 2008 amendment. The Board is committed to reduce VOC emissions by 30 – 40 tons per day by 2014. Delay until 2012 of the complete removal of the 2.33 tons per day of emissions reductions expected from these three categories, fully 43 percent of all pollution reductions expected from the 2008 amendment, will only hinder achievement of CARB’s goal.

We thank CARB for its efforts to protect human health and the environment from the effects of toxic air contaminants. We applaud the Board for the attention it has directed towards avoiding unintended health consequences triggered by industry substitutions designed to meet new VOC content limits. We further commend CARB for its addition of Pressurized Gas Dusters to the proposed amendment, intended as a discreet early action measure to reduce greenhouse gases. We look forward to continuing work with the Board to improve the upcoming amendment to the Consumer Products Regulation.


Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist
Environmental Working Group
1904 Franklin St., Suite 703
Oakland, CA 94612


CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 2005. National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.

Delclos GL, Gimeno D, Arif AA, Burau KD, Carson A, Lusk C, Stock T, Symanski E, Whitehead LW, Zock JP, Benavides FG, Anto JM. 2007. Occupational risk factors and asthma among healthcare professionals. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 175:667-675.

Duty SM, Silva MJ, Barr DB, Brock JW, Ryan L, Chen Z, et al. 2003. Phthalate exposure and human semen parameters. Epidemiology 14(3): 269-277.

Duty SM, Calafat AM, Silva MJ, Brock JW, Ryan L, Chen Z, et al. 2004. The relationship between environmental exposure to phthalates and computer-aided sperm analysis motion parameters. Journal of andrology 25(2): 293-302.

Duty SM, Calafat AM, Silva MJ, Ryan L, Hauser R. 2005. Phthalate exposure and reproductive hormones in adult men. Human reproduction 20(3): 604-610.

Main KM, Mortensen GK, Kaleva MM, Boisen KA, Damgaard IN, Chellakooty M, et al. 2006. Human breast milk contamination with phthalates and alterations of endogenous reproductive hormones in infants three months of age. Environmental health perspectives 114(2): 270-276.

Pechter E, Davis LK, Tumpowsky C et al. 2005. Work-related asthma among health care workers: surveillance data from California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey, 1993-1997. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 47:265-275.

Swan SH, Main KM, Liu F, Stewart SL, Kruse RL, Calafat AM, et al. 2005. Decrease in anogenital distance among male infants with prenatal phthalate exposure. Environmental health perspectives 113(8): 1056-1061.

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