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Cancer product warnings project the nonsensical nanny state - of California

Proposition 65 is emblematic of California and progressivism. The idea behind Proposition 65 was to help people know about things that are dangerous, like cancer causing chemicals. We don’t want things like cancer causing chemicals to harm us or our children. If that were the only goal, it would be great. But that's not the case.

That’s the idea anyway. The reality is a nonsensical law passed by liberals in the nanny state that is costly for Americans, and has no measurable impact on health.

Anybody in the U.S. can see the effects of this law from the California labels on products. The labels are everywhere, on all kinds of products - not just in California. If something causes cancer, wouldn't it cause cancer everywhere, not just in California? But since it's costlier for a manufacturer to create a product with and without the California label, products everywhere have the California label.

The problem in practical terms is that the law has become both nonsensical and useless; it has become it's own monster. Anyone can see California warning labels on things that in their normal use would never cause cancer.

The reality is also that the enforcement of the law has been toxic itself. It’s been costly not only to people in California, but for manufacturers and businesses everywhere in the U.S. In fact, instead of protecting people, it's actually made their lives less safe, and added to the cost of living, as trial and litigation attorneys have prospered because of the law.

When did this cancerous moral preening begin? In 1986, California voters approved an initiative to address their growing concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals. That initiative became the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

Proposition 65 requires the State to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. This list, which must be updated at least once a year, has grown to include approximately 800 chemicals since it was first published in 1987.

Proposition 65 was approved by a 63 - 37 percentage margin of the population. That’s about the ratio of liberals to reasonable (read conservative) people in California.

In a summary of the law before it was passed, the cost of the approving the measure was estimated to be $500,000, and $1,000,000 annually.

Leading up to the passage of Prop 65, it was warned that the law requires warnings on millions of ordinary safe items that people use every day. This is the mission statement of OEHHA: to protect and enhance public health and the environment by scientific evaluation of risks posed by hazardous substances.

We are all affected by OEHHA. That’s because notices are printed in China for the rest of the U.S. on products. The additional ink required on a product is part of the cost of producing the product. We all get to read how much the State of California is trying to protect the rest of us, whether we want it or not.

There are a number of business groups that suffer the ill effects of this law and the resulting lawsuits from violations of the act. They have learned that if they want to continue to live and produce in California, they need to learn about the law, the courts and how to defend themselves against litigious attacks as a result of this law.

According to the Specialty Equipment Market Association, the law has spawned a predatory trial-lawyer industry focused on using the law to net large settlements. 

“The only companies safe from the reach of Prop 65 are those not producing or selling merchandise in California. Otherwise, if you are a multi-state retailer, distributor or manufacturer whose products end up in California, Prop 65 can be costly if you are not prepared,” the SEMA website warns.

But if you are a successful business, why would you not want to sell your product in California? Because the law makes it easy for trial attorneys to make money from your desire to expand and sell it everywhere in the U.S.

“Businesses with 10 employees or more that do business in California must comply with Prop 65. The warning requirement applies to any business in the chain of distribution, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers, and including out-of-state companies selling product in California.”

“Under the law, fines can run up to $2,500 per day per violation. For many faced with Prop 65 cases (known as “headhunter” suits), it can feel like a shakedown, because Prop 65 lawsuits are expensive to fight, and defendants often settle quickly to avoid the high cost of litigation. Many times, it is questionable as to whether there has been a violation of the law, since there may be limited consumer exposure to the specific chemical.”

The group includes businesses that sell or produce automotive products. Two chemicals that are Prop 65 targets for the automotive specialty aftermarket: lead in brass parts, and DEHP

DEHP is a phthalate used in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plastics to make them softer, more flexible and durable. Phthalates are used in a variety of products from pipes to plastic wraps, artificial leather, electrical wire insulation and adhesives.

“You do not need to label your product if it does not contain a listed chemical or the listed chemicals in your product create such a small amount of exposure to the consumer as to fall into the “safe harbor” provisions of Prop 65. The safe harbor amounts—or No Significant Risk Levels (NSRLs)."

The problem or the opportunity, however you want to look at it, is that it is impossible to know if products contain listed chemicals and at what exposure amounts without laboratory testing and/or toxicology reports, SEMA says.

We can learn about how flimsy arguments for or against how dangerous these chemicals are with the history of banning sodium saccharin from food consumption. It was first added to the list of chemicals known to cause cancer in California on January 1, 1988. Why? Because of a public meeting held by the former Scientific Advisory panel. 

But that's different than the national ban on saccharin. A saccharin label was required nationally in 1977. The ban for the chemical was withdrawn in 1991, but foods with the chemical were still required to have a warning label. In 2000, it was declared safe. It's easy to see the sodium saccharin sugar additive in a package because it's the one that's pink.

The latest effort at protecting Americans is to warn us about roasted coffee. Coffee roasting produces acrylamide, a chemical which may cause cancer in high doses - millions of cups of coffee. Roasted coffee may be dangerous everywhere, but it’s more dangerous in California.

This warning is the brainchild of the Council for Education and Research on Toxics; they filed a lawsuit that may require Starbucks, BP, Gloria Jean’s and 7-Eleven, to warn customers about ingesting massive quantities of coffee or acrylamide.

A quick Internet search for CERT finds nothing but news attributed to other sources. According to one, it’s located in a small office in Long Beach. But such is the life of toxic Proposition 65 attorneys in California.

In short, it’s a morality tale where everybody pays for the good intensions of the nanny state of California scientists. As a result, we are all getting roasted.

© 2018 Larry Ingram

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