P&G, SC Johnson back California chemical labeling law

The new regulation goes farther than a New York disclosure mandate signed in early 2017.

In mid-October, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, authored by Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara. The law makes California the first state to require companies to disclose the chemicals present in both commercial and householder cleaning products through both packaging labels and online declarations, joining New York as one of just two states that regulate chemicals disclosure.  

Several consumer products companies and chemicals manufacturers backed passage of the California bill, working with NGOs to advocate for mandatory disclosure of their chemical formulations. 

Under the new regulation, also known as SB-258, companies selling products in California will be required to list their ingredients online by Jan. 1, 2020, and include that information as part of on-package disclosures by Jan. 1, 2021. The bill text states that product labels and websites for "air care" (such as fresheners), automotive products, colorants, floor polish and cleansing substances used in janitorial, domestic or institutional cleaning processes must list intentionally added ingredients, including phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), and known fragrance allergens. The bill does not, however, require manufacturers to disclose the weight or amount of these ingredients, which is protected as confidential business information (CBI).

Avoiding 'toxic lockout'

If companies don't comply, they can't sell their products in the state, leading to what Richard Liroff, executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, calls a "toxic lockout" — exclusion from the marketplace as its needs evolve in favor of protecting consumer health.

While no provision in the bill requires enforcement by a state agency, the California Attorney General has the authority to enforce the law. What's more, the public relations fallout for violating the law will motivate manufacturers to comply, said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.

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