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EPA to amend VOC standards of cosmetic products

Jul '08
The Professional Beauty Association (PBA) strives to keep beauty professionals informed of ground breaking news, events and government advocacy related to the beauty industry.

Under pressure from lawmakers, trade/industry groups and the environmental lobby, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is on the cusp of amending the 1998 national Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emission standards for consumer products.

The VOC standards regulate a variety of consumer products - from air fresheners and engine cleaners to hair sprays and nail polish removers.

Since the 1998 standards were originally published, more than a dozen states have enacted their own VOC standards - often with tighter limits on consumer products.

Although the timeline has been a moving target, the EPA has indicated that they anticipate a public release of the proposed amendments in August of this year.

The EPA is expected to increase the number of product categories regulated from 24 to 56. Additionally, the VOC limits for most categories will be lowered.

For hair sprays in particular, the EPA is following the lead of the Ozone Transport Commission's (OTC) model rule by lowering VOC content limits from 80%-55%.

For about a dozen states, the 55% limit is already the standard. Additionally, several more states are implementing a 55% content limit in January 2009.

After the EPA releases its proposed amendments later this summer, there will be a public comment period lasting approximately 30-60 days.

After the public comment period, the EPA will then prepare responses to comments and consider any possible changes to their original proposal. Prior to enactment, the EPA will publish what is known as a "Final Rule" in the Federal Register.

"From our conversations with the EPA, we expect that they will publish a final rule on the VOC amendments in April of 2009," said Steve Sleeper, Executive Director of PBA. "They have also indicated that January 1, 2010, is the likely effective date for any new rules."

One of the questions surrounding the new VOC limits deals with so-called "sell through" dates. A sell through date is a deadline by which manufacturers, distributors and retailers must dispose of and/or sell existing stock of non-compliant products.

"We have shared our concerns with the EPA regarding the problems with sell through dates for existing inventory...particularly for our distributors and salon owners," said Sam Leyvas, PBA's Government Affairs Director.

"The EPA has indicated that they are not likely to institute any sell through dates because of the burden they place on small businesses."

Canada Proposes Similar Changes:
A package of proposed regulations for Canada would also reduce VOC emissions from consumer and commercial products.

Issued under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the three sets of draft regulations would prohibit the manufacture, sale or import of products for use in Canada whose concentrations of VOC's exceed specific standards.

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