Whether it’s safer cosmetics or less toxic TVs you want, California’s new Green Chemistry Initiative report spells good news. Released today, this report by the California Environmental Protection Agency paves the way to reduce toxic chemicals used in products sold in California.

The report basically makes six main policy recommendations (PDF) that’ll help make consumer products safer. The idea’s to pass laws supporting green chemistry and engineering practices, which will regulate and restrict dangerous chemicals while encouraging innovation and use of safer materials.

If all the recommendations get adopted, Californians will get an online database of chemicals and product ingredients to help them make more informed decisions about the goods they buy. These new online databases actually sound a lot like the nonprofit Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database, which ranks both products and individual ingredients in them on their potential health hazards. Of course, Cali’s databases would cover not just cosmetics, but a wide variety of consumer goods and chemicals. And these databases would be funded by the government and have the force of law, versus being run by a nonprofit organization with limited funding like EWG.

The Green Chemistry Initiative, launched in April 2007, has already seen some policy victories. The initiative unveiled its phase 1 report in January this year, and in September, two green chemistry laws — one to help regulate toxic chemicals and another to create a scientific clearinghouse for chemicals’ effects — were signed into law. Now that the final policy recommendations have been made, additional policies to put those recommendations to actions are expected.

In fact, the report’s last recommendation even looks beyond chemicals to address carbon footprints, calling for a cradle to cradle economy where customers will be able to assess not just a product’s safety, but its carbon footprint. The Los Angeles Times’ article on this report focuses on this environmental footprint issue, imagining a future when we might be able to scan bar codes via our cell phones to assess exactly how green a product is.

That future’s still rather far off, unfortunately. For now, try checking out Good Guide to assess mainstream products. That website seeks to offer free, scientist-vetted rankings on products to make shopping easier for eco-conscious consumers.

Image: Courtesy California Green Chemistry Initiative

Cleaner chemistry for California
California's Green Chemistry Initiative paves the way for less toxic consumer products.