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Chemical Warnings to Change Soon in California

By Christine Torres

California's Proposition 65 to update labels

There are an immense variety of chemicals in use daily for all sorts of manufacturing. The effects from working with or around these chemicals are not always noticeable or immediate. To address the public’s growing concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals, California adopted Proposition 65 – a chemical warning law - in 1986. Since then, the state has called for more up-to-date information on chemicals to better inform the public. The updates to Prop. 65 will begin Aug. 30, 2018, and will effect manufacturers, distributors, and retailers on how that safety information is relayed on the product as well as how it is distributed to workers, businesses, and consumers. This law update changes chemical warning labels to make the warnings more meaningful and helpful to consumers, according to the state. Companies that manufacture or sell products in California should evaluate their warning obligations prior to the implementation of the new regulations.

Chemical Warnings

Through Prop. 65, product manufacturers and sellers must provide a "clear and reasonable" warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing Californians to a chemical listed by the state as known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. For internet and catalog sales, the new regulations require that the warning be displayed “prior to or during the purchase of the consumer product, without requiring the purchaser to seek out the warning.” According to a UC Davis study in 2015, 77 percent of respondents to a survey comparing the new specific warnings to the current generic warnings said the new warnings would be more helpful. According to the state, the new chemical warning labels should include:

  • The identification of at least one listed chemical in the product that prompts the warning
  • The Internet address for the Proposition 65 warnings website,
    (This site has additional information on the health effects of chemicals and ways to reduce or eliminate exposure to them.)
  • A triangular yellow warning symbol ⚠ on most warnings. The word “warning” must be bold and in all caps.

Another change to the chemical labeling law is that when the consumer product sign, label or shelf tag used to provide a warning includes consumer information in a language other than English, the warning must also be provided in English, the state reports. Facilities would also have to provide any required chemical warning signage or labels in a language workers can understand, in addition to English.

Label warns of lead in product

Worker Safety

Products manufactured before Aug. 30 will not need new warnings if they meet the requirements that were in effect at the time of their production, the state said. However, there are laws already in effect to protect those who work with chemicals. On average, more than 60,000 workplace exposures occur per year, according to OSHA reports. Additionally, studies are now linking hearing loss and other ailments to chemical exposure. When working with chemicals, signs and labels serve a crucial role in preventing occupational exposure to hazardous materials and to also instruct people on the appropriate safety measures. To help workers practice appropriate safety measures when working with chemicals, remind workers to correctly use a respirator, use gloves, wash hands, and to use and transfer chemicals responsibly. Workers must be provided with training that includes information about the chemical hazards in their workplace. Use training and educational resources as part of a HazCom training program to help ensure facility safety.

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