In 1986, California voters approved the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act to address growing concerns about toxic chemicals in consumer products and the environment. Better known as Proposition 65, the law requires the state to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. The list now contains over 800 chemicals, and more are added every year.
The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) administers Prop 65 and determines which chemicals are added to the list. Any product offered for sale in California that contains one of the Prop 65 chemicals must carry a warning that notifies consumers about the presence of the listed chemical.
Although Prop 65 does not ban the use of chemicals that it lists as “toxic,” most recent settlements have included a requirement that manufacturers “reformulate” their products to eliminate the chemical.
AHFA is working in concert with the North American Home Furnishings Association (NAHFA), OEHHA and the California Attorney General’s Office on a “general retail warning” that could help simplify Prop 65 labeling for home furnishings companies. The general warning would include in-store signage as well as language for purchase receipts.
In a separate effort, AHFA has identified the first steps in a comprehensive “risk assessment” program that would eventually help protect home furnishings companies from Prop 65 bounty hunter campaigns targeting the industry. The Alliance is working to identify a dozen or so Prop 65 chemicals that are commonly present in the components of home furnishings products. Chemicals that are not on the Prop 65 list but could be added at a future date may be among those included.
Future steps may include retaining laboratory and legal resources to develop and validate a testing protocol that would include a risk model for each chemical, as well as “safe harbor” limits based on routes of exposure. This research would equip member companies with a legally defensible framework for not labeling product when credible scientific evidence supports this position. (September 2015)
In the meantime, AHFA has developed a comprehensive Prop 65 Compliance Toolbox to assist companies with labeling programs.