Public comment invited on state regulatory actions to address chemicals in consumer products

There are thousands of chemicals in consumer products that cause environmental problems and harm human health. (Photo courtesy Washington State Department of Ecology)

Consumers use hundreds of items every day, many of which contain chemicals that are hazardous to human health or the environment. The Department of Ecology said in a news release last week it is seeking public input to determine which potentially hazardous chemicals it should regulate in consumer products. The 60-day comment period began Nov. 17 and the public can provide feedback through the agency’s website. The draft regulatory actions include restrictions on:

  • Flame retardants in the enclosures for electric and electronic products, and recreational foam (like in gymnasiums).
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in paints and printing inks, which are created inadvertently during pigment manufacturing.
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in carpets and rugs, leather and textile home furniture and furnishings, and treatment sprays for textile and leather products.
  • Bisphenols in thermal paper (like receipts) and drink can linings.
  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) in laundry detergents.
  • Phthalates in vinyl flooring and personal care and beauty products.

“Many of the toxic chemicals that get into our bodies, our food, and our environment come from common household products we use every day,” said Darin Rice, who oversees the Ecology Department’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program. “Our Safer Products team is eyeing regulatory actions on these sets of product-chemical combinations to help cut off the flow of toxics in products at their source, thereby reducing harm to people and the environment while maintaining the valuable services that these consumer products provide.”

The program implements a law passed in 2019 that gives the ecology department some of the strongest authority in the nation to limit the type and amount of harmful chemicals in products. The agency recently published a draft report to the Legislature, outlining potential regulatory actions for 11 different categories of prioritized consumer products. Using the rulemaking process, the program will implement the regulatory actions outlined in the final report to the Legislature, due June 2022.

Comments on the most recent draft proposal are due before Jan. 14, 2022, and can be made by:

  • Using the online comment form.
  • Asking questions or sharing input at one of the upcoming public meetings:
  • Sending an email to SaferProductsWA@ecy.wa.gov.
  • Sending written comments in the mail to Cheryl Niemi, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600.
  • Calling the ecology department’s outreach staff at 360-999-7566 for translation or interpretation assistance.

Those interested can also view a story map on harmful chemicals in consumer products and then take a short public feedback survey. At the end of the comment period, the ecology department will integrate that feedback into its final report to the Legislature.

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