State lawmakers have churned out proposals in recent years to ban individual toxic substances, but this scattershot approach has been largely ineffective. Now, the state Senate is poised to take up an ambitious bill by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) that would establish a comprehensive program cataloging the potentially hazardous chemicals used by California companies. The point is to shift the focus from controlling pollution -- that is, regulating how chemicals are disposed of or emitted -- to preventing it by reducing the use of hazardous materials.
This sensible approach is modeled after a toxics-reduction measure adopted by Massachusetts in 1989 that actually saved companies millions of dollars more than it cost them to comply. Feuer's bill would require the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to compile a list of monitored toxics and create a database on their health effects. Large users of those chemicals would have to report what they used and how much, as well as submitting plans for using less.