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Green Chemistry

Green Chemistry

In 2008, the State of California passed two new laws to begin implementation of a green chemistry program:

  1. AB 1879 (Feuer, Chapter 559, Statutes of 2008) mandates that a regulatory process be established for identifying and prioritizing chemicals of concern in consumer products and to create methods for analyzing alternatives to existing hazardous chemicals. Out of this, DTSC’s Safer Consumer Products program was developed. For more information on the Safer Consumer Products (SCP) program, please visit the Safer Consumer Products website.
  2. SB 509 (Simitian, Chapter 560, Statutes of 2008) establishes the Toxics Information Clearinghouse, with the goal of increasing public knowledge about the toxicity and hazards of thousands of chemicals used in California every day.

Informal Draft Regulations for Safer Consumer Products

Informal draft regulations for Safer Consumer Products program are available for public review. A public workshop was held on December 5, 2011, and the informal comments are listed below.

See DTSC’s Safer Consumer Product’s Regulations page for more information.

DTSC Wins Federal Support in Push for Safer Consumer Products

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Video

January 18, 2012

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sign an agreement that gives added momentum to California’s groundbreaking push for safer chemicals in everyday products. The agreement, known as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), is a major advance for Californians looking to buy safer children’s toys, personal care products and other products. View the video from our YouTube site (opens in a new window).

California Green Chemistry Position Statement:

DTSC has developed an official position statement related to the Green Chemistry Initiative and why green chemistry is needed.

December 5, 2007

During this public forum, we asked participants to focus their efforts on one recommendation that should be included in the green chemistry framework. We asked them to delve down and provide details on what that recommendation would include. We asked them to identify how, when and whom. The comments below represent their contributions.

California Green Chemistry Initiative Next Steps Presentation

October 24, 2007 – Western Regional Pollution Prevention Conference

The Green Chemistry Team joined attendees of the Western U.S. Pollution Prevention Conference on October 24 2007, to discuss green chemistry and gather input on the Initiative. The comments below were received as a direct result of the breakout sessions.

October 17, 2007 – California Environmental Protection Agency

The Green Chemistry Team held an all staff brown bag at the California Environmental Protection Agency to gather staff input on the Initiative. The comments below were received from staff as a direct result of the breakout sessions.

October 5, 2007

During this public stakeholder meeting, we asked participants to break into small workgroups to brainstorm 5 questions. The comments below represent those contributions.

Panel Discussion PowerPoint Presentations:

September 19, 2007

PowerPoint Presentations

August 17, 2007

DTSC Regional Office Visits:

Director Gorsen is traveling to the DTSC regional offices to gather their input on the Green Chemistry Initiative. The comments posted below were gathered from the breakout sessions which focused on the four challenge areas.

Berkeley Regional Office – September 20, 2007

Other Key Documents:

October 21, 2009

News Releases

Phase One — Options Report

April to December 2007

The California Environmental Protection Agency has released a compilation of policy options that more than 600 participants submitted during Phase One. The Options Report includes the 818 options on ways to reduce the effects of toxic chemicals on people and the environment. Participants in the Conversation with California provided their ideas to develop safer processes and products, foster innovation, create new jobs, and reduce waste. The report is a comprehensive list of these options which were evaluated.

Phase Two — Analysis of Policy Options

January to June 2008

The California Green Chemistry Initiative is divided into two phases. During Phase One, from April to December 2007, participants brainstormed more than 800 options. These options were compiled into the Phase One report. We have begun work on Phase Two—the analysis of these potential options. This spring, we will analyze the multitude of possible options generated in Phase One. To evaluate these, “draft” frameworks are being developed. These draft frameworks are posted on this web site and have been discussed at five public workshops.

Phase Two includes three, concurrent tracks:

Key Elements
Currently in Phase Two, we have formed interagency teams within state government to begin development of plans for the “Key Elements” presented in the Phase One Options Report. The Key Elements are the building blocks for a successful California Green Chemistry program. These elements recurred throughout the array of possible options presented in Phase One.
Draft Policy Frameworks
To evaluate the many options submitted during Phase One, the department is developing and seeking public input on “draft policy frameworks.”
Science Advisory Panel
To engage the scientific community, DTSC assembled a Green Chemistry Science Advisory Panel consisting of 21 of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers. The panel is a major asset to the program as it will guide the department on scientific matters and provide the technical basis for the Green Chemistry Initiative. To see the Science Advisory Panel recommendations click here.

Science Advisory Panel

June 2, 2008

The Green Chemistry Initiative Science Advisory Panel has completed its report on advancing green chemistry in California to DTSC Director Maureen Gorsen. The report describes the work of the Panel, especially its process in developing green chemistry options, and presents 38 options to advance green chemistry the Science Advisory Panel has identified for the state to consider. It is important to note that, while there was substantial agreement on many of the options developed by the Panel and its subcommittees, the Science Advisory Panel did not attempt to reach consensus on the options developed for presentation to Director Gorsen. Therefore, this report presents a range of options for the state to consider. Each of these options was developed by one or more individual members of the SAP, and should not be regarded as representing the consensus of the SAP. This “text only” version contains the final outcomes of the Panel’s deliberations. It is posted here pending graphics, layout/design and printing.

The Green Chemistry Initiative Science Advisory Panel was created to assist DTSC Director Maureen Gorsen as she considers the many Green Chemistry options identified by stakeholders. This 21-member panel consists of leading thinkers and proponents of green chemistry. Panel member are experts in chemistry, chemical engineering, environmental law, toxicology, public policy, pollution prevention and cleaner production, environmental and public health, risk analysis, materials science, nanotechnology, chemical synthesis, and research.

The Science Advisory Panel will meet over the first half of 2008 to provide their expert advice to Director Gorsen.

Science Advisory Panel Vision:

The state of California has a chemicals policy in place that protects the health of Californians and the environment. The policy assists Californians to:

  • Implement strategies to stimulate a green chemistry industrial revolution to drive technological innovation and the development of safer, healthier, and more sustainable chemicals, products and processes and approaches across their life cycles.
  • Move from a system where materials are on a one-way trip from the cradle to grave to a system where products are recovered as raw material for reuse in new products and processes without harming human health or the environment.
  • Develop strategies to encourage the use of less-hazardous products, processes and approaches by encouraging the use of less-hazardous alternatives.
  • motivate and support new investments in safer and more sustainable products, processes and approaches.

California has an unprecedented opportunity to establish new mechanisms to promote economic development while protecting human health and the environment. In order to accomplish this, all stakeholders must be represented and their concerns and issues heard. As an advisory panel of diverse backgrounds, we will strive to articulate to the DTSC various opportunities and issues from multiple perspectives, so that the agency may move forward in its work. We will be sure to identify concepts on which there is consensus. Where there are differing opinions, we will make every effort to represent the various viewpoints in a fair and honest way.

Mission: The Mission of the Green Chemistry Initiative (GCI) Science Advisory Panel is to advise Department of Toxic Substances Control Director Maureen Gorsen on scientific and technical matters in support of the goal of the GCI to significantly reduce adverse health and environmental impacts of chemicals used in commerce, as well as overall costs to California society, by encouraging the redesign of products, manufacturing processes and approaches. The panel will assist Director Gorsen in developing green chemistry and chemicals policy recommendations, and will ensure that these recommendations are based on a strong scientific foundation. The initiative is broad in scope and will consider a wide range of options, in an effort to identify the most effective means of strengthening California’s use of green chemistry.

Panel Members

  • Dr. John Warner, Ph.D. (Chair), The Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry
  • Dr. John R. Balmes, M.D (Vice-Chair), University of California San Francisco and Berkeley
  • Dr. Paul Anastas, Ph.D., Yale University
  • Dr. Nicholas Ashford, Ph.D., J.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Dr. Eric Beckman, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
  • Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr., Ph.D., Occidental Chemical Corporation
  • Dr. Gail Charnley, Ph.D., HealthRisk Strategies
  • Dr. Richard Denison, Ph.D., Environmental Defense
  • Dr. Daryl Ditz, Ph.D., Center for International Environmental Law
  • Dr. Michael Dourson, Ph.D., DABT, ATS, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA)
  • Dr. Ken Geiser, Ph.D., University Massachusetts-Lowell
  • Dr. Lynn Goldman, M.D., M.P.H., Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Dr. John D. Graham, Ph.D., Dean, Pardee RAND Graduate School
  • Dr. Neil C. Hawkins, Ph.D., The Dow Chemical Company
  • Dr. Lauren Heine, Ph.D., Lauren Heine Group LLC
  • Dr. James Hutchison, Ph.D., University of Oregon
  • Dr. Vistasp M. Karbhari, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
  • Dr. John Peterson Myers, Ph.D., Environmental Health Sciences
  • Dr. Mary O’Brien, Ph.D., Grand Canyon Trust
  • Dr. Barry Trost, Ph.D., Chemistry Department, Stanford University
  • Dr. Michael P. Wilson, Ph.D., MPH, University of California, Berkeley
  • Dr. Katy Wolf, Ph.D., Institute for Research and Technical Assistance

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



What is Green Chemistry?

Stated most simply, green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. Fewer hazardous substances means less hazardous waste and a healthier environment.

Chemical synthesis involves combining chemicals to make new ones that have useful properties. The 12 principles of green chemistry are:

  1. Prevent waste: Design chemical syntheses to prevent waste, leaving no waste to treat or clean up.
  2. Design safer chemicals and products: Design chemical products to be fully effective, yet have little or no toxicity.
  3. Design less hazardous chemical syntheses: Design syntheses to use and generate substances with little or no toxicity to humans and the environment.
  4. Use renewable feedstocks: Use raw materials and feedstocks that are renewable rather than depleting. Renewable feedstocks are often made from agricultural products or are the wastes of other processes; depleting feedstocks are made from fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, or coal) or are mined.
  5. Use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents: Minimize waste by using catalytic reactions [1]. Catalysts are used in small amounts and can carry out a single reaction many times. They are preferable to stoichiometric [2] reagents, which are used in excess and work only once.
  6. Avoid chemical derivatives: Avoid using blocking or protecting groups [3] or any temporary modifications if possible. Derivatives use additional reagents and generate waste.
  7. Maximize atom economy: Design syntheses so that the final product contains the maximum proportion of the starting materials. There should be few, if any, wasted atoms.
  8. Use safer solvents and reaction conditions: Avoid using solvents, separation agents, or other auxiliary chemicals. If these chemicals are necessary, use less harmful or dangerous chemicals.
  9. Increase energy efficiency: Run chemical reactions at background or room temperature and pressure whenever possible.
  10. Design chemicals and products to degrade after use: Design chemical products to break down to innocuous substances after use so that they do not accumulate in the environment.
  11. Analyze in real time to prevent pollution: Include in-process real-time monitoring and control during syntheses to minimize or eliminate the formation of byproducts.
  12. Minimize the potential for accidents: Design chemicals and their forms (solid, liquid, or gas) to minimize the potential for chemical accidents including explosions, fires, and releases to the environment.

What can Green Chemistry do?

Green chemistry is not a particular set of technologies, but rather an emphasis on the design of chemical products and processes. Sometimes, green chemistry takes place at the molecular level to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. This approach offers environmentally beneficial alternatives to more hazardous chemicals and processes, and thus promotes pollution prevention.

Green chemistry can lead to dramatic changes in how we interact with chemicals on a daily basis as in the case of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis. “The word metathesis means ‘change-places.’ In metathesis reactions, double bonds are broken and made between carbon atoms in ways that cause atom groups to change places. This happens with the assistance of special catalyst molecules. Metathesis can be compared to a dance in which the couples change partners… Metathesis is used daily in the chemical industry, mainly in the development of pharmaceuticals and of advanced plastic materials. Thanks to the Laureates’ contributions, synthesis methods have been developed that are:

  • more efficient (fewer reaction steps, fewer resources required, less wastage),
  • simpler to use (stable in air, at normal temperatures and pressures), and
  • environmentally friendlier (non-injurious solvents, less hazardous waste products).

This represents a great step forward for ‘green chemistry,’ reducing potentially hazardous waste through smarter production. Metathesis is an example of how important basic science has been applied for the benefit of man, society and the environment.”

The U.S EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge promotes and recognizes outstanding chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture, and use. It recognizes chemical development that has been or can be used by industry in achieving their pollution prevention goals. Past award winners’ achievements have included the development of alternative coatings, surfactants [4] and fire extinguishing agents.

How is DTSC Promoting Green Chemistry?

DTSC and green chemistry share a common principle – preventing the generation of waste. California law directs DTSC to place the reduction of hazardous waste as its highest priority when developing new programs or carrying out the provisions of the Hazardous Waste Control Law. DTSC also promotes the application of Green Chemistry through its source reduction programs.

DTSC requires hazardous waste generators to prepare hazardous waste source reduction plans for their major waste streams and update them every four years. In these plans, generators examine their waste generating processes and identify source reduction opportunities.

Source reduction means one of the following:

  • Any action that causes a net reduction in the generation of hazardous waste.
  • Any action taken before the hazardous waste is generated that result in a reduction of the properties which cause it to be classified as a hazardous waste.

Source reduction involves reducing, avoiding, or eliminating the generation of hazardous waste. It can include such practices as:

  • Input change – changing raw materials or feedstocks used in a production process or operation.
  • Operational improvement – improving site management, also referred to as housekeeping practices.
  • Production process change – changing processes, methods, or techniques used to produce a product or a desired result, including returning materials or their components for reuse within the existing processes or operations.
  • Product reformulation – changing the design, composition, or specifications of end products, including creating a totally different, non-hazardous product.

As part of its source reduction mandate, DTSC also implements cooperative technical assistance and outreach programs with industry to promote multi-media pollution prevention.

DTSC is currently monitoring the European Commission efforts to implement legislation for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH). In REACH, the European Union is considering legislation to track and make publicly available information about all new chemicals.

Although DTSC does not regulate products made from or containing hazardous substances, those products create waste that is of interest and concern to DTSC. Thus, as part of its role in environmental protection, DTSC hosted technical symposia on a variety of emerging technologies and products such has nanotechnology and pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

Chemical/Product Prioritization Resources

Alternatives Assessment Resources

Other Resources

  • Assembly Bill 1879 The California Environmental Protection Agency is given greater authority to regulate toxins in consumer products.
  • Senate Bill 509 Authorizes the online Toxics Information Clearinghouse to provide Californians with information on hazardous chemicals encountered in their everyday lives.

[1] A reaction where a substance is used to increase the rate of a chemical reaction, without being consumed or produced by the reaction.


[2] Refers to compounds or reactions in which the components are in fixed, whole-number ratios.


[3] A removable chemical unit used by synthetic chemists to purposefully cover up certain regions of a molecule so they do not react with other compounds during a reaction.


[4] Surfactants are wetting agents that lower the surface tension of a liquid, allowing easier spreading, and lower the interfacial tension between two liquids.