California’s Proposition 65 (Prop 65), adopted in 1986 by state voters, has long been considered among the most far-reaching right-to-know and toxic chemical reduction statutes in the country. It now has competition from Washington State’s Pollution Prevention for Healthy People and Puget Sound Act (the “Act”), SSB 5135 (Chapter 292, 2019 Laws), signed into law on May 8, 2019, by former 2020 presidential candidate Governor Jay Inslee. Numerous commentators have called the Act, the nation’s “strongest” policy for regulating toxic chemicals in consumer products.
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Legalization of medicinal and adult-use cannabis in California has fomented a surge of seed-to-sale companies angling to lure market share from a sea of customers. The water may soon be agitated, however, by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). OEHHA is the lead California agency that oversees implementation of Proposition 65, formally known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. OEHHA recently announced that it has selected cannabis (marijuana), marijuana (cannabis) smoke, cannabis extracts, and delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for review for possible listing under Proposition 65 as chemicals that cause reproductive toxicity. If the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC) determines that these chemicals cause reproductive toxicity based upon “scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles,” marijuana in its various forms will likely join a list of more than 900 chemicals known to the state to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. Companies that cultivate, distribute, and/or sell marijuana and products containing marijuana in California would then be required to warn consumers—and possibly employees and passersby—that exposure to these listed chemicals can cause reproductive harm.
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A federal judge blocked California from requiring Monsanto to put warning labels on its Roundup products, ruling there is “insufficient evidence” that the active ingredient causes cancer. When “California seeks to compel businesses to provide cancer warnings, the warnings must be factually accurate and not misleading. As applied to glyphosate, the required warnings are false and misleading,” likely violating Monsanto’s First Amendment rights.
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In an article published in Law360, Hunton & Williams LLP partners Walter Andrews, Malcolm Weiss, and I discuss two recent decisions in Tree Top Inc. v. Starr Indem. & Liab. Co., No. 1:15-CV-03155-SMJ, 2017 WL 5664718 (E.D. Wash. Nov. 21, 2017).  There, the Eastern District of Washington rejected an insurer’s attempt to escape insurance coverage for a Proposition 65 lawsuit filed against juice-maker Tree Top Inc.

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PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) comprise a group of highly fluorinated manmade compounds that are showing up in drinking water supplies around the country. They are resistant to heat, water and oil, as well as to chemical breakdown. Until recently, PFASs have not been widely regulated. This is changing at both the federal and state levels.
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Prop. 65 requires warnings be given to Californians prior to exposing them to even minute amounts of any of the 900+ chemicals listed as causing cancer or reproductive harm. The law has been on the books for 30 years. 2016 saw noteworthy amendments to the “safe harbor” warning provisions. These new regulations may be found in the California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 27, Section 25600. These amendments alter the relationships between entities in the chain of commerce, particularly as between retailers and their vendors, but also place added burdens on all businesses that need to comply with Prop. 65. We expect the recent amendments to the Prop. 65 warning regulations to increase litigation and the numbers of claims filed by plaintiff lawyers. Understanding the regulations and the risks involved is vital in helping businesses reduce their potential liability.
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