Calif. Governor Jerry Brown has proposed significant reforms to Prop. 65, the state's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. We generally support the Brown administration's efforts—particularly when it comes to warning labels. Brown's proposal would make warning labels much more specific, telling people about particular chemicals while providing tips on how to minimize exposure.
We also support efforts to limit frivolous lawsuits that don’t make California’s products any safer. While there may be some unscrupulous attorneys only looking to make a quick buck using Prop 65, it is important to note that many Prop. 65 lawsuits have propelled momentum on regulations of toxic substances including caramel coloring and lead.
Despite our support of these items, we are concerned about one portion of the proposed reform. Brown is considering lowering the threshold levels of chemicals that would trigger warning labels. Though his newly proposed no-observed-adverse-effect levels may make sense for some chemicals, endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates require a more nuanced approach since they can be harmful (especially to pregnant women, infants and children) at extremely low doses. In the end, any provisions should maintain the integrity of Prop. 65 and avoid rendering it toothless regulation.
Gretchen Lee Salter, the Breast Cancer Fund's senior policy manager, was recently interviewed for an E&E article about the proposed changes:
The law has "really been successful taking toxic chemicals out of consumer products," said Gretchen Lee Salter, senior program and policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund. Companies have reformulated items rather than disclosing chemicals, she said, because landing on the state's Proposition 65 list is like the "Scarlet Letter."
"We just want to make sure that any reforms that may happen, that we don't lose that aspect of Proposition 65," Salter said.
And as other states enact toxics policies and create lists of problematic chemicals, they often look to the Golden State's list as authoritative, she said, adding "we want to make sure that California maintains its leadership."
Salter also said she was concerned that the process of changing the law could open the door for the chemical industry lobby to advance the rewrites it wants.
We’ll continue to work with the administration to ensure Prop 65 protects public health in the way it always has.