Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — California air quality regulators are poised to ask cosmetics companies to further reduce smoggy vapors emitted from several personal care products.
At a March 20 meeting, the state Air Resources Board is expected to add several new products to its list of pollution-causing culprits, such as spray products that purport to add shine to the hair, and propose reductions in their ozone-causing components.
But more problematic for the beauty industry is the board’s expected request to further reduce vapors emitted from hair sprays.
Four years ago the industry agreed to reduce the percentage of vapor-causing chemicals in hair sprays, referred to as volatile organic compounds or VOCs.
These chemicals, commonly used as propellants, comprised about 98 percent of hair spray content and the industry agreed to reduce the level to 80 percent.
Figuring that Californians — 30 million strong – still emit about 46 tons of VOC’s a day just from hair spray, the board plans to ask that levels be cut to 55 percent by 1998, according to a board spokesman.
“There’s an opportunity here for further reduction,” the spokesman said.
As the board begins to further tighten emissions standards, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the industry to comply with the new restrictions.
That’s why cosmetics companies want to delay the 55 percent goal until 2002.
“We’ll do it eventually, but we just need more time,” said Tom Donegan, vice president and legal counsel at the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association.
The board is required to take into account the cost and available technology in calling for VOC reductions. Donegan said the industry is still trying to figure out how to reduce the amount of ethanol, the offending VOC in hair spray, without causing such problems as clogging a bottle’s spray mechanism.
After 20 years, the California Air Resources Board has become a fixture in the state regulatory scene. And, in the case of nationally distributed personal care products, the board’s decisions have affected the formulation of assorted cosmetics and fragrances on a country-wide basis.
For example, because of California’s emission standards, non-aerosol products nationally have become the norm. Fragrances produced after 1992 have reduced amounts of VOCs.
On a related front, this spring the federal Environmental Protection Agency is slated to issue its own VOC standards, which won’t have any impact on California’s air-quality campaign.
Nevertheless, Donegan said the beauty industry is supportive of the EPA’s action since it will give uniformity to VOC standards in the other 49 states, many of which have undertaken a myriad of air emission restrictions.
Now the industry just has to focus on California, exempted from the federal standards, but which in many instances exceed them.
“Now companies will have to decide whether they will produce just for California or let it set the standard for the rest of the country,” Donegan said.

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