Sometimes – though not often enough for my liking – companies that manufacture consumer products grow a conscience, cave to public pressure, or both, and vow to discontinue using toxic substances in their shampoo, window cleaner, or toothpaste. It’s a step in the right direction, though it often comes long after countless people have been exposed to dangerous carcinogens and suffered the related health consequences.

Recently, the state of California one-upped these manufacturers by approving the landmark Safer Consumer Products regulations, which take effect October 1, 2013 and will require manufacturers to seek safer alternatives to the harmful chemical ingredients currently found in commonly used products.

As the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) noted in a press release, this is one of the first programs of its kind in the world. The regulations lay out an extensive, time-consuming review process that begins with the state establishing a list of “Candidate Chemicals.” 

Manufacturers can then determine if any of their “Priority Products” contain one of those substances; conduct an “Alternatives Analysis” as to what safer ingredients might be substituted; and then wait for “Regulatory Responses” to be issued.

All this might sound simple enough, but could take years to produce actual results in the marketplace. The eventual implications, however, are incredibly wide-reaching: If manufacturers have to reformulate their products for sale in California – by far the most populous state in the country – they’ll likely do so across the board for products sold in all states, in any country.

The term “consumer products” is vague, making it difficult for companies to exempt their products from following the regulations. Fortunately, California’s DTSC will prioritize a product for review based on the "Candidate Chemicals" it contains (if any), and just how hazardous those chemicals can be over the life cycle of the product – meaning not just when it is used by the consumer, but also how toxic its production process is on the environment, among other factors.

I admire California lawmakers for taking this important step in the name of public health, and I encourage consumers to follow this story as it develops. Though it might take years for changes to be forced upon manufacturers, those with any amount of foresight will strike preemptively, and remove dangerous ingredients before being forced to do so by law.

In the meantime, look out for California’s list of "Candidate Chemicals," to be released at the end of October, and do some regulating of your own! Scour the cabinets and closets of your home and compare the chemicals on the list to those listed as ingredients on your favorite products.

It’s great that California wants to help protect its citizens, and by extension the rest of the country, from toxic substances, but only you can control which products enter your home and affect the health of everyone inside.

Note: Information provided herein is not intended to treat or diagnose any health condition. As always, consult your healthcare provider with any questions or health concerns.