November 2016, will mark 30 years since California’s Proposition 65 became law. The law was created to notify consumers about chemicals that are known to cause cancers, have birth defects, or cause reproductive harm. However, many are now arguing that what was supposed to be a public health statute has now become a payday for lawyers and is creating both health and hazard issues.
Payday for the lawyers
Due to the lack of information about what chemical/chemicals are actually used in a product under the current Prop 65, The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is working on improving the law. Currently, OEHHA is working to make sure that the warning labels contain the specific name of the chemical that is used within the product, and they are working on creating a website that will provide fact sheets of information, such as the health effects that certain chemicals can have on the consumer.
The push for changing the Prop 65 Law came about when California Governor, Jerry Brown, noticed that there had been a number of lawsuits arising. Brown believes, under the current Prop 65 law, consumers can just walk into a store, find a product that contains one of the chemicals and sue the company if no warning labels were found. This means that companies are being sued regularly under Prop 65, and are facing $65,000 fines.
Health and Hazards
Another concern is that the warning labels found on the chemical are almost useless if they are not in the right context. Kevin Ott, from the Flexible Vinyl Alliance in Washington DC., criticises Prop 65 for using a ‘hazard based approach’ that gives no reference about the actual exposure of the chemical, therefore having no improved health benefits to Californians.
OEHHA is not reworking Prop 65 warning requirements, with the new regulation to be finalized by November. Once the changes are made, there will be a two-year transition period.