Schwarzenegger vetoes perfluorocarbon legislation but signs off chemical oversight programme

California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, vetoed a bill on 29 September that would have made his state the first in the US to ban certain perfluorinated compounds. The legislation required perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonates (PFOS) to be removed from food packaging by 2010. 

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s science advisory board has labelled PFOA a ’likely carcinogen’. In addition, PFOA and PFOS have both been linked to foetal development problems, male reproductive hormone abnormalities, and other health issues. 

But the degree to which these chemicals are a threat to human health remains controversial, and the chemical industry had mounted a campaign opposing the California bill. Industry representatives have also noted that the US federal government already regulates PFOA under a voluntary EPA 2015 phase-out, so they question the need for California to step in.

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Schwarzenegger’s veto was condemned by the Environmental Working Group - a US lobby group - as well as United Steelworkers (USW), the largest labour union in North America representing 850,000 members, including many in the chemical industry.

’Industry wanted to derail the regulatory process because it no longer holds the scientific evidence in its favour,’ said Leo Gerard, USW’s president.

Safety drive

Schwarzenegger killed the bill on the same day that he signed into law two pieces of legislation that effectively give California one of the most comprehensive state chemical oversight programmes in the US.

The first of the two measures, signed on 29 September, gives the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) the authority to regulate chemicals that raise health concerns. A new advisory panel of scientists will guide research in chemical policy and the legislation also establishes procedures to exempt the public release of industry information that is claimed to be a trade secret.

The second bill Schwarzenegger signed creates an online Toxics Information Clearinghouse to provide data about the toxicity and hazards of frequently used chemicals.

Rebecca Trager, US correspondent for Research Day USA