“When consumers in California visit the Dunkin’ Donuts website hoping to order a bag of their favorite java, they are met with the following message: ‘Important Notice: We are temporarily suspending the shipment of orders to California while we work to comply with Proposition 65 with the State of California. We apologize for any inconvenience.’” Acrylamide, a compound naturally present in many roasted or cooked foods, is among the hundreds of substances that must be warned against under Prop 65, which has led, as we noted in May, to a lawsuit against more than 40 coffee companies. [TechNewsWorld] Author Vivian Wagner quotes me:
“The law empowers private litigants to enforce its terms without having to show that any consumer has been exposed to any material or substantial risk, let alone harmed,” Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told the E-Commerce Times. “As a result, entrepreneurial law firms roam the state identifying new, often far-fetched, unwarned-of risks and extracting cash settlements along with promises to warn from hapless defendants.”
The latest surprising application of California’s toxic-warnings law [Ken Odza]
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has repeatedly delayed the implementation of the testing and certification rules required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the economics of which is likely to capsize many smaller producers. Now time may be running out for further extensions after the Feb. 10 deadline. [Rick Woldenberg, AmendTheCPSIA.com] Comments from affected parties are here.
Bruce Nye (Cal Biz Lit) and Michael Pappas (at Law.com Corporate Counsel) count the ways: “Why do I have to tell everyone that my grilled chicken, which is made the same way as my grandmother used to make it, may cause cancer?” (The answer being California-specific Proposition 65.)
Bruce Nye has a photo of a pointless new warning McDonald’s has posted in California stores to avoid litigation. The warning seems to have a side safety benefit: by the time you finish reading it, your coffee won’t be hot any more.
In legal settlements, that is, thanks to California’s Prop 65 [Cal Biz Lit] We’ve met the Center for Environmental Health before here and here.
P.S.: Bounty-hunting for lead residues has “sort of become big business in California” [Jennifer Taggart, quoted in the Washington Post]
Bruce Nye at Cal Biz Lit has the latest from the California Prop 65 front.
Rick Woldenberg talks back to the California attorney general, and also raises some questions about Proposition 65 and the finances of the freelance enforcers in the case, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). Two years ago we covered CEH’s crusade against the iPhone. More: Darleen Click/Protein Wisdom and a followup from Woldenberg.
“Joints and baggies sold at California’s medical marijuana dispensaries will soon carry a new warning label” now that a state panel has added reefers to the long list of officially recognized carcinogens that must be warned about under Prop 65. [San Jose Mercury News via CalBizLit]
Everyone else is getting publicity by filing suits over the iPhone, so they may as well too: “Environmentalists have threatened to sue Apple if it does not make its iPhone a “greener” product or tell consumers of the toxins allegedly used in the device’s manufacture. The Center for Environmental Health (CEH), a campaign group based in Oakland, California, said that it would launch legal action in 60 days unless Apple took action.” (Rhys Blakely, Apple faces legal threat over ‘toxic’ iPhone”, Times Online (U.K.), Oct. 17; InfoWorld; ArsTechnica). The CEH is invoking California’s ultra-liberal Prop 65 toxics-warning law, on which see posts here, here, here, etc.
Hoover Institution’s Henry I. Miller:
Moreover, because Prop 65 is enforced entirely through litigation, it has created a system of legalized extortion. To initiate a lawsuit, a plaintiff need only show that a listed chemical is present in a consumer product and that the defendant business “knowingly” exposes Californians to that product without posting the warnings. Prior to filing the suit, the plaintiff must send the defendant a notice describing the exposure; 60 days thereafter, the plaintiff may sue. That notice may be the first inkling a retailer has that his products are exposing consumers to listed chemicals.
The latest chemical to run afoul of Prop 65 is di-isodecyl phthalate, or DIDP, an important and extremely useful additive used to soften hard vinyl plastic and found in dozens of common items, including shower curtains. It is also used to insulate the wires in the walls of homes across America. Safely used for more than 50 years, it is one of the most thoroughly tested products in the world and has been closely examined by numerous regulatory agencies throughout the United States and Europe. Through all that evaluation, no credible scientific review has found DIDP to be dangerous in normal use.
However, those favorable conclusions didn’t faze regulators at California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), who recently decided that DIDP may pose a risk of developmental harm in humans and, therefore, should be listed under Prop 65.
But the mere presence of something does not imply that it’s dangerous; one needs to know the dose, length of exposure, how the body disposes of it, and so forth. Prop 65 standards only look at the potential for risk as criteria for listing. Using that logic, since people regularly suffocate from a chunk of meat blocking their windpipe, maybe steaks should be listed too. (One hates to give the regulators ideas, however.)