Tough Talk - Proposition 65

Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Many in the industrial coatings industry, and indeed the overall chemicals industry, have heard about California’s Proposition 65. But how many of us really know what it is? Let’s delve into how it was created, its mission, how it operates and the current status of compounds affecting you and the powder coating industry.

The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 is an initiative created by California voters to assuage their growing concerns regarding exposure to toxic chemicals. Dubbed “Proposition 65” as it was identified on the ballots, this act that requires the state to publish a list of hazardous chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) was formed as a division of California’s Environmental Protection Agency and administers the Prop 65 directives. The bill that was passed requires businesses to notify consumers of significant quantities of listed chemicals in products they sell. Moreover, California businesses are prohibited from knowingly introducing any of these chemicals into sources for drinking water.

The list of hazardous chemicals, which now stands at over 800 entries, is compiled and updated at least annually by OEHHA. This list contains a variety of compounds from a myriad of sources, including additives or ingredients in common household products, food, drugs, dyes, pesticides and solvents. The chemicals can also be encountered in construction, manufacturing or chemical processes such as the combustion of fuels, including automotive transportation. 

OEHHA employs two independent committees comprised of scientists and health professionals that are appointed by the Governor and are considered the “State’s Qualified Experts.” These two committees - the Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC) and the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant (DART) Identification Committee - are part of OEHHA's Science Advisory Board. Either of these committees can submit a compound for inclusion on the Prop 65 list. Committees compile recent relevant scientific data on the chemical and then open their selections for comments by the public before adding them to the list.

OEHHA also employs the expertise and recommendations of relevant federal agencies for the Prop 65 listings. The following organizations have been designated as authoritative bodies: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Toxicology Program, and International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Another means to add a compound to the Prop 65 list is through the California Labor Code, which requires the listing of compounds meeting certain scientific criteria established at the onset of Prop 65 in 1986. These metrics involve determining if the chemical in question causes cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

According to OEHHA, “Businesses are required to provide a ‘clear and reasonable’ warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to a listed chemical. This warning can be given by a variety of means, such as by labeling a consumer product, posting signs at the workplace, distributing notices at a rental housing complex, or publishing notices in a newspaper. Once a chemical is listed, businesses have 12 months to comply with warning requirements.” Businesses with less than 10 employees and government agencies are exempt from these warning requirements.

So how does this impact our fair industry? Historically, not much. Back in 2009, TGIC was being investigated for toxicity and was on the launch pad to be listed; however, OEHHA delisted it on December 13, 2013, citing, “Because of recent changes in federal regulations, the chemicals identified…no longer meet the criteria for inclusion on the list on the basis of the Labor Code mechanism.” A bunch of bureaucratic gobbledy gook, but California businesses no longer have to worry about listing it on their products.

Three other raw materials commonly used in powder coating formulas require warnings:
• Titanium dioxide (airborne, unbound particles of respirable size).
• Carbon black (airborne, unbound particles of respirable size).
• Silica, crystalline (airborne particles of respirable size).

These materials are ingredients commonly used to produce powder coatings and are handled by highly trained operators at powder manufacturing facilities. It is important to note that airborne exposure of all of these only occurs in the powder manufacturing process and not during the handling, transport or application of powder coatings.

On a more amusing note, the following materials are deemed hazardous per California law and reside on Prop 65’s listing: alcoholic beverages, oral contraceptives, unleaded gasoline (wholly vaporized), tobacco (and tobacco smoke), wood dust, leather dust, marijuana smoke and last, but not least, salted fish – Chinese style.

I’m so glad that I work in the powder coating industry.

- by Kevin Biller, technical editor, Powder Coated Tough

Tough Talk is an opinion column penned by Powder Coated Tough's Technical Editor, Kevin Biller. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Powder Coating Institute and/or Powder Coated Tough.