By Caroline W. Miller, CIH, CSP
On April 14, 2014, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) held a public workshop to discuss possible changes to the existing Proposition 65 (Prop 65) “Clear and Reasonable Warnings” for products sold in California that contain a chemical known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. OEHHA has developed a potential draft regulation and draft Initial Statement of Reasons that are available to the public. The intention of the changes are to: eliminate frivolous lawsuits; improve warning requirements while providing flexibility and certainty for businesses; and improve science. The workshop focused on the improvements to the warning requirement.
The proposal includes 3-5 minimum required elements for warnings:
1. Use of the signal word “WARNING”;
2. Use of the word “expose” to be consistent with the language in the statute;
3. The standard (Globally Harmonized System) pictogram for health hazards (only for consumer products other than foods, occupational, and environmental warnings);
4. Disclosure of the names of up to 12 commonly-known chemicals (acrylamide, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, chlorinated tris, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, phthalates, tobacco smoke or toluene) that require warnings in the text of the warning;
5. A link to a new OEHHA website (www.P65Warnings.ca.gov) to allow the public to access more information relating to the warning, including additional chemicals, routes of exposure, and if applicable, any actions that individuals could take to reduce or avoid the exposure.
The proposal would provide the public with better information and business with more regulatory certainty, clarity and additional warning options:
- Provides an opportunity for small retailers (25 or fewer employees) to cure certain minor warning violations within 14 days and avoid any private enforcement whatsoever.
- Incorporates alternatives such as e-mail (for environmental exposures), as well as automated processes that may be developed in the future, while maintaining existing options such as on-product warnings and signs.
- Includes tailored language for specific warning contexts (e.g. alcohol, drugs, medical devices, parking garages, hotels, apartments and theme parks).
- Businesses may propose tailored warning methods and content for specific chemicals or exposure scenarios for adoption into regulations.
- Recognizes warnings covered by existing court-approved settlements.
The regulations would be mandatory. The “safe harbor” warning language would no longer be optional for companies. The proposed regulations state that the warning “must, at a minimum, comply with all applicable requirements.”
OEHHA is accepting written comments until May 14, 2014. The formal regulatory process will start the summer of 2014 and the regulatory process should be completed in the summer of 2015.