August 17, 2017

California Proposition 65 regulations amended to require more specificity on warnings

On August 30, 2016, (yes a year ago) the California Office of Administrative Law approved the adoption of amendments to Article 6, "Clear and Reasonable Warnings", of the California Code of Regulations.  This was a regulatory "repeal and replace" and not a legislative one so as a result it was further off the news "radar". The new regulations provide, among other things, methods of transmission and content of warnings deemed to be compliant with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Prop. 65). Prop 65 regulations are promulgated by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) which also maintains the Prop 65 chemical list and is one of 6 agencies under the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA).

Most companies already know that any consumer product sold in California must comply with Proposition 65, meaning that their products sold in California cannot contain harmful amounts of the chemicals on its notorious 800 chemical list (and growing). Its important to keep in mind that this list continues to grow and is much more extensive than the EU REACH law/regulation (which currently lists only about 200 chemicals). Its also much more extensive that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) regulations which are mostly confined to lead and Phthalates. There has been quite a bit of publicity surrounding Monsanto's futile legal efforts to keep RoundUp weed killer off the Prop 65 list.

The difficulty with the new warning requirement (which does not go into effect until August 30, 2018) is that if you test and if you find something on the list in your product you must now have specific "safe harbor" warnings that include any of the 800 chemicals on the list that might be in your product in harmful amounts. Under the old abolished regulations you could utilize a "safe harbor" (provision of a statute or a regulation that specifies that certain conduct will be deemed not to violate a given rule) warning that did not need to specify which of the 800 chemicals on the list might exist in the product. Now of course one can debate the merits of warnings generally, especially the efficacy of one that lists the offending complex chemical name over one that does not, but we don't have enough space on this post to have that debate. The point is this is now the current state of the law and my advice is to try to steer clear of Prop. 65 suits (just like ADA suits and host of others). Also these warnings cannot exist solely in user's manuals unless you are a vehicle manufacturer who got special dispensation under the new regulations (but even they still must have stand alone warnings)

The other interesting issue is that if your company was part of a settlement of a Prop 65 suit. Under the new law a company that is a party to a court-ordered settlement or final judgment establishing a warning method or content, is deemed to be providing a “clear and reasonable” warning for that exposure for purposes of the new law, if the warning fully complies with the order or judgment. This covers a few companies in the bicycle arena. It's not known how many total companies are exempted by this as that would depend a lot on the terms of the settlement and (I assume) the chemicals ("the exposure") involved in that particular suit.

Clearly there is going to be lots of work ahead in the next year for all consumer product manufacturers, brands, distributors, resellers, and retailers (on line and off). You can be sure Amazon, Walmart and all the big retailers are well aware of these issues and they will surely come up in contract negotiations with sellers to most large retailers.

Law Offices of Steven W. Hansen | | 562 866 6228 © Copyright 1996-2013 Conditions of Use