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Prop 65

Could you tell me more about a California Proposition 65 warning that says "contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, or birth defects, or other reproductive harm" on some of the bags?

At the federal level, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has regulations regarding maximum levels of certain chemicals, such as Lead and Phthalates in consumer products. CPSC has also found lead to not be naturally occurring in certain articles, like cotton.

On top of federal regulations, however, some states, like CA, have taken matters into their own hands when it comes to the protection of consumers. It has done this through a law that came out in the 1980s (and is gaining renewed momentum) called Proposition 65.

Proposition 65 requires businesses to warn people about significant amounts of chemicals in the products they make where that chemical is both (1) known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and (2) is listed on the “Prop 65 List.” California’s Prop 65 in its simplest terms, requires a label where a product contains a chemical compound that exceeds the Safe Harbor Level. Safe Harbor determinations are based on a person’s exposure to a chemical, assuming daily exposure at that level.

The warning to consumers is typically done via the placement of a “warning label” directly onto the merchandise itself. Retailers and importers therefore, need to test their products (typically done at the production level) for the existence of these chemicals and, if found, are subject to the label requirement. As for which parts to test, merchandise is subject to testing for all parts to which a user may come into contact with, or otherwise be exposed to. Therefore, all outer and inner surface materials require testing.

With all of the recent buzz around the existence of chemicals in consumer products, namely with lead, phthalates and cadmium, we can look into the Proposition 65 rules regarding these 3 chemicals. While stated in simple terms, there are technically several subdivisions of each of these chemicals, only a handful of which are on the Prop 65 List and therefore, subject to testing. They are:

5 Listed Phthalates: Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate) (DEHP), Di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), Di-n-hexyls phthalate (DnHP), Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), Di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP)

4 Types of Lead: Lead, Lead acetate, Lead phosphate, Lead subacetate

1 Type of Cadmium: Cadmium

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) provides a list of “Safe Harbor Levels,” of which there are 2 types (NSRLs and MADLs (defined below)). These levels are intended to assist in determining whether warnings are required on products for exposures to the listed chemicals because if those levels are exceeded, a label is required.

To find out more about Proposition 65, check out their website.

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