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California Adds BPA to Prop 65 List

18 May, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Expect to See Warning Labels Appearing on Exercise Bottles -- and Other Affected Products in 2016

Plastic drinking bottles, canned goods and other items containing the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) distributed in California might soon be required to carry a label disclosing that the compound can cause reproductive harm to women.

The State of California added BPA to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity under its Proposition 65 law despite ongoing litigation challenging the validity of such findings.

A Reuters News story reported on the issue and on the controversy surrounding it.

The decision was welcomed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, which called it "an important step forward in protecting public health."

A non-profit organization generally supportive of industry positions said the decision highlights the "sheer ridiculousness" of California's law requiring disclosure of chemical compounds known to cause harm.

"Regulators are just stirring up more needless fear about safe products," said Joseph Perrone, chief science officer for the non-profit Center for Accountability in Science.

That voter-passed law, Prop 65, set up a system under which chemicals found to cause developmental or reproductive impairment would have to be disclosed, whether they are in consumer products, used in the construction of buildings or used in other ways.

A chemical industry group sued the state in 2013, when experts tried to require disclosure of PBA as causing developmental harm. The state won that case, but the industry appealed, and the chemical remains off the list while the litigation continues, said Sam Delson, a spokesman for California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

The product is used in plastic drinking bottles and in the lining of some canned food containers, among other purposes.

A report in Sports One Source noted the ruling, which became effective May 11, was made by the state's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) following a May 7 public meeting by its Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC). "The DARTIC determined that BPA was clearly shown through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles to cause reproductive toxicity, based on the female reproductive endpoint," according to an announcement by OEHHA.

Concerns over the health effects of BpA prompted many outdoor retailers to pull polycarbonate beverage containers from their shelves in 2007 and 2008. Bottle vendors have since shifted to BpA-free alternatives, but the chemical is still widely used as a starting material in the manufacture of polycarbonate lenses and frames.

The Vision Council, which represents such companies as Oakley Inc., Smith Optics, Costa del Mar Sunglasses and their parent companies, said Monday it is reviewing the decision to determine whether the state is providing a safe harbor level for BpA as it did in its initial listing. Chemical exposures above the safe harbor level trigger a Prop 65 warning, but the state's original listing for BpA set that level above the level most people would encounter in a product. The Vision Council believes that a similar safe harbor level would benefit its members and other members of the optical industry.

The Prop 65 warning requirement for BpA takes effect one year after the chemical is added to the list. Thus, companies will now have until May 11, 2016 to determine if their products sold in California contain BpA, or if their California work places will expose employees to BpA, according to the Vision Council.

Proposition 65 has been a California state law since 1986. Passed as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, Prop 65, as it is commonly known, regulates the presence of certain chemical substances found in products sold in California, or present in the workplace in California. The goals of Prop 65 are to protect California's drinking water sources from contamination by these chemicals and to allow California consumers, residents and workers the information necessary to make informed choices so they can take precautions about the products they purchase or exposures they might receive to potentially hazardous chemicals.

If a business sells in California a product containing a substance or substances that are on the Prop 65 list in excess of the de minimis level for that substance, then a "clear and reasonable" warning must be provided to the public. The same is true for environmental or workplace exposures to Prop 65 substances in California.

Already, companies have begun putting labels on their products, trumpeting the fact they are “BpA-Free.” REI and Nalgene began phasing out BPA Bottles some time ago.

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