California’s Proposition 65 Runs Amok with Addition of BPA

plastic-bottlesOn May 11, 2015, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) listed Bisphenol A (BPA) as a reproductive toxicant to be added to the list of chemicals subject to Proposition 65.  Given the widespread use of BPA in numerous consumer applications (e.g., plastics, adhesives, sealants, epoxy resin liners in food containers, and thermal paper such as the paper used to print cash register receipts), the addition of BPA is a significant development for a large number of businesses evaluating compliance with Proposition 65 with respect to BPA in products.

Proposition 65 provides a 12-month period from the date of listing before warnings are required.  Thus, warnings for exposures to BPA will be required starting on May 11, 2016, unless a person in the course of doing business can show that exposures are below the Maximum Allowable Dose Level (MADL) safe harbor limit for BPA.

OEHHA Takes Action with Deadline Approaching

As the deadline for the warning requirement is quickly approaching, OEHHA recently took emergency action with respect to the listing of BPA.  The first action was the issuance of a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish a MADL for dermal exposures from solid materials containing BPA.  The second was an emergency action to allow for the temporary use of a standard point-of-sale warning for BPA exposures from canned and bottled foods and beverages.

Proposed MADL

The warning requirements under Proposition 65 do not apply if a business can show that exposures from a product are less than the MADL established by OEHHA, which puts the business in a “safe harbor.”  Based on OEHHA’s review of the scientific studies, it has proposed a MADL of 3 micrograms/day (dermal exposure from solid materials) for BPA.  Significantly, the proposed MADL of 3 micrograms/day is a level believed to be above that which most people would encounter from a product in normal use.Bisphenol_A

Comments on the proposed MADL are due to OEHHA by May 16, 2016.  Note that this means that the proposed MADL will not be finalized until after the May 11, 2016 trigger date for warnings.

OEHHA Allows Uniform Point-of-Sale Warnings for Canned and Bottled Food and Beverages

OEHHA attempted to develop a MADL for oral exposure (as opposed to the dermal exposures discussed above) that could have precluded the need for an emergency action on the warnings.  However, OEHHA was unable to work through the technical, practical, and timing issues associated with adopting an oral exposure MADL.  Consequently, to avoid potential removal of many food products from the shelves in markets, OEHHA’s proposed solution, as presented in the emergency action, is to amend the regulations to provide for the temporary use of a standard point-of-sale warning as a compliance option.

The compliance option contemplates signs no smaller than 5 x 5 inches with the following warning language:

WARNING: Many cans containing foods and beverages sold here have epoxy linings used to avoid microbial contamination and extend shelf life. Lids on jars and caps on bottles may also have epoxy linings. Some of these linings can leach small amounts of bisphenol A (BPA) into the food or beverage. BPA is a chemical known to the State of California to cause harm to the female reproductive system.  For more information go to:  www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/BPA.

OEHHA’s actions will have a significant impact on businesses seeking to comply with Proposition 65 for products carrying the potential for exposures to BPA.

Resurgent Mold Litigation In Sandy’s Wake

There is a significant risk that there will be a resurgence of mold claims and mold litigation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  Sandy left behind thousands of homes and offices in New York and New Jersey with flood-soaked flooring and sheet rock and water-damaged carpeting and personal belongings, which are all potential sources of mold if not removed and replaced.  In addition to potential mold exposure to property owners and lessees, there is the potential occupational risk to the thousands of workers in the construction trades who are working to repair damaged homes and offices.

The most likely source of mold-related claims, however, will arise over disagreement concerning the scope of work of remediation contractors, construction companies and others involved in returning storm-ravaged communities to some semblance of normality.  The contractor who replaces ruined sheet rock walls or wooden flooring, for example, may not be thinking about the water-soaked floor joists that may be a breeding ground for mold. The contractor who rebuilds an HVAC system may not feel responsible for sources of mold that may be spreading via that system.

Although certain affected surfaces may appear to recovered after being submerged under storm water for days, those surfaces may in fact be a breeding ground for mold. As much as possible, a building contractor should clarify with the client in writing what responsibility, if any, the building contractor has for addressing mold conditions, particularly those conditions that may be adjacent to area of new construction.

On November 30, 2012, WNYC broadcast a highly informative program on the Leonard Lopate Show titled, "Mold: Please Explain", which can be downloaded from WNYC’s website. The guests on the program were Monona Rossol, an expert in environmental health and industrial hygeine, and Chin Yang, a microbiologist with Prestige EnviroMicrobiology. Ms. Rossol and Mr. Chin discussed what mold is, where it comes from, how it grows, what it can do to your home and health, and how to get rid of it.  The listener Q&A following the initial presentation made clear that there are widespread misperceptions about mold and how to address it.   

Thankfully, there are many publicly available websites that provide first-rate information concerning mold hazards and how to address it.  These sources should be the first place anyone with a mold concern should look for answers.  They are also excellent sources of information for toxic tort practitioners defending mold cases, who need to identify relevant regulations and standards of practice in the industry.  These sources also provide valuable insights into how to protect human health during the restoration process.

These sources, most of which are provided on the WNYC website, include NYC’s excellent site at: The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; EPA’s "Mold Regulation in Schools and Commercial Buildings", EPA’s "A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home", "Flood Cleanup: Avoiding Indoor Air Quality Problems" and "The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality" "An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality", FEMA’s "Dealing With Mold and MIldew in Your Floor Damaged Home" and "Eradicating Mold and Mildew" HUD’s "Healthy Homes Programs Resources" and Disaster Recovery: Mold Removal Guidelines for Your Flooded Home" and lastly, the "Guidance for Clinicians on the Recognition and Management of Health Effects related to Mold Exposure and Moisture Indoors", published by the University of Connecticut Health Center, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Center for Indoor Environments and Health.

There is no dearth of strong science-based resources concerning mold and mold rememdiation on the internet. Unfortunately, these resources are often consulted only after some ill-advised action is taken with regard to a mold concern, not before.