Posted on 4/23/2014 1:47:29 PM By Mark Collatz


I'll begin with a confession …..I have a baseball addiction.   My wife says I should seek help, but I’m afraid that’s not going to happen in this lifetime.  I share this admission with you only because it explains what I was doing at Dodger Stadium many years ago during a trip to California to defend adhesives and sealants before any one of a number of regulatory bodies that makes sure our industry toes the line.

In between innings, I had sauntered up to a refreshment stand for a Dodger Dog and a liquid refreshment, and that’s when I saw it…… “Warning: This area contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause [cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm].”  The dreaded Proposition 65 warning.  I’ll admit, my initial reaction was bewilderment and a little confusion—how could such a magical place present such a threat to my health?  It took only a few seconds to realize that the hot dog in my hand was probably one culprit, but there surely were others, whether it was the smoke from the charcoal grills or the melted “whatever” that went on the “buttered” popcorn. With that resolved, it took just a few more seconds to scarf down my dog and head back to my seat

With more visits to California, I became increasingly aware that Prop 65 warnings were everywhere—gas stations, grocery stores, shopping malls, and while I can’t personally confirm this, I wouldn’t be surprised if a trip to the doctor’s office or the hospital didn’t get you a peek at one of those babies.  Of course, Prop 65 isn’t just a boon for the signage industry. Thousands of products, including most adhesive and sealants, are required to include Prop 65 labels on their products. With the law now on books for more than 25 years, I think many in our industry look at Prop 65 labeling as something like the cost of doing business.

But now, it looks like things are about to change, and not for the better. 

Last spring, Governor Jerry Brown released a proposal to “reform” Prop 65 to reduce unnecessary litigation (a good thing) and provide more useful information to the public on what they are being exposed to and how they can protect themselves (uh oh).

Recently, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released a pre-regulatory proposal that is short on reducing litigation and long on providing more information. 

 The simplest changes would require substituting the word “Warning” on all labels for “WARNING.” 

Next, the actual Prop 65 label language will have to be changed from, “this product contains a chemical known…..” to “this product will expose you to a chemical known.”

In addition, if the product contains one of the following 12 chemicals, then the label warning must call it out specifically: acrylamide; arsenic; benzene; cadium; chlorinated tris; 1,4 dioxane, formaldehyde, lead, mercury; phthalates, tobacco smoke; and toluene.

Finally, all labels would require a link to a new OEHHA-hosted website that would allow public access to more information relating to the warning, including additional chemicals, routes to exposure, and if applicable, actions that individuals could take to reduce exposure.

If these new rules are adopted by OEHHA in the next couple of years, those in our end user community can expect to see even more complicated and confusing packaging labels, and you won’t have to be buying those products in California.  It’s no secret that adhesive and sealant manufacturers, as well as most other chemical formulators, are not going to label uniquely for California.  That’s why someone buying a contact adhesive in Maine is just a likely to see a Prop 65 warning as someone buying the same product in San Diego.

So the next time you grab that cartridge of sealant or pail of adhesive for your spring DIY project—ask yourself—do you feel safer when you see that Prop 65 label? And more importantly, will you feel even safer when the label says WARNING instead of Warning?

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