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State rule requiring byproduct listing has yet to be implemented

Basil Seggos, commissioner of the DEC, speaks during

Basil Seggos, commissioner of the DEC, speaks during the first New York State Drinking Water Quality Council in Stony Brook. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

More than a year after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York would require manufacturers to list byproducts and contaminants found in soaps and other consumer cleaning products, the initiative has yet to be fully implemented.

Cuomo announced the measure during his State of the State address at the beginning of last year and that April he said the state Department of Environmental Conservation had issued a draft disclosure form for manufacturers. Cuomo said at the time that New York would be the first in the nation to take such action.

A year later, final regulations or the disclosure form have not been released. The rules include giving notice to the state of all ingredients or impurities and also supplying that information online, no more than four clicks away from a publicly accessible homepage maintained by the manufacturer.

The DEC has had the authority to require disclosure since the early 1970s and for years environmental groups have pushed for action.

“It’s important for it to be finalized and in effect by the end of the year,” said Peter M. Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, a watchdog group based in Albany. “The last thing we want is people being unnecessarily exposed to chemicals that can be dangerous.”

The regulation requires notice of even trace amounts of 2,600 chemicals added intentionally or created as a byproduct or impurity during manufacturing.

They are categorized as eye irritants, aquatic toxins, ozone depleters, cancer causers and more. The list includes well-known compounds like lead and mercury, as well as emerging contaminants, such as 1,4-dioxane, an unregulated chemical found in trace amounts throughout Long Island’s drinking water supplies.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos earlier this month said the agency was in the process of finalizing the paperwork. In part, he said, it was to incorporate the many comments received — 864 — from environmental groups, industry representatives and others.

“It’s a complicated issue,” Seggos told Newsday. “Our goal is to get it right. I’m not concerned whatsoever with the slight delay we’ve had.”

State officials would not give a timeline as to when the disclosure form and guidance would be finalized.

The American Cleaning Institute, an industry group based in Washington, opposed the regulation in letters sent to the state last year.

A spokesman, Brian Sansoni, said Monday the group is now awaiting the final disclosure requirements from the state.

“The disclosure program should maintain ease of market entry, keep program costs to a minimum and align generally with current ingredient information provided to consumers,” the group wrote in September to the state. “The recent draft disclosure program guidance does not accomplish these goals . . .”

Among the issues identified at that time: The industry wants two years and not six months to make the disclosures after regulations take effect; and a concern that some of the contaminants requiring listing are culled from international documents. Those foreign sources, the group wrote, “are not necessarily relevant to U.S. consumers and, indeed, have not been demonstrated to be relevant.”

The disclosure regulations are important because they can help the state make key decisions, said Kathleen Curtis, executive director of Clean and Healthy New York, an environmental health advocacy group in Albany. If the disclosures indicate a contaminant of concern is widely used, the state could take action. “It could inform the state as to what ingredients, if anything, need to be regulated,” Curtis said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sought a requirement that 1,4-dioxane be removed from shampoos, lotions and other consumer products, in part to prevent it from fouling water supplies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration denied his petition, noting that levels of 1,4-dioxane in products have been declining. A 2008 survey said the man-made chemical was not detected in 80 percent of 35 samples tested of consumer products. The highest level detected was 11,600 parts per billion, the letter said.

But the officials also wrote that a new survey would be conducted this year.

“Depending on the results of the updated survey, we may also take steps to address other gaps in the data concerning possible risks associated with exposure to 1,4-dioxane in cosmetic products,” wrote Linda Katz, the FDA’s director of the Office of Cosmetics and Colors.

Agency spokesman Peter Cassell could not comment on survey specifics and when it would be launched.

Schumer, in a statement to Newsday, said the FDA survey must be thorough, complete and expeditious. “The technology to minimize 1,4-dioxane in toiletries already exists so the FDA should do everything in its power to remove it from products before they hit our store shelves and get into our drinking water and bodies,” Schumer said.

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