Aloe Vera Added to Prop. 65 List

Aloe VeraThere are two very different types of actors in the realm of making our economy tick. Entrepreneurs wake of every day trying to think of new ways to innovate, to expand, and thus create new jobs. Then there are the regulators in Sacramento who wake up every day thinking of new, creative ways to add burdens and barriers to operating your business in California and beyond. Their latest regulatory red alert: Aloe vera.

You read that correctly: Aloe vera. In December of last year, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published its intent to list Aloe vera, whole leave extract to the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. Despite the widely accepted extensive health benefits of Aloe vera, an unelected regulator in Sacramento can now tell you and all consumers it will cause cancer, even if no cases of cancer from Aloe vera exposure exist.

The problem is that the 800+ chemicals listed in Proposition 65 are not devised to protect consumers, but rather serve as a cash cow for private trial lawyers to sue small business and reap the hefty settlement payout. Since 1986, nearly 20,000 lawsuits have been filed, adding up to over half a billion dollars in settlement payments by business owners.

Unfortunately, the most profitable thing regulators give to trial lawyers at the expense of job creators is confusion. Recent Proposition 65 proposed regulatory revisions create compliance difficulties, increase frivolous litigation, and add consumer confusion.

Included in these proposed revisions are additional Prop 65 labeling requirements on the immediate container or wrapper of products containing at least one of the twelve chemicals listed by OEHHA. However, the chemical(s) only need to be listed if it exists at a “level that requires a warning.” Which products need a Prop 65 warning label and which do not? A lawyer only needs to know the chemical exists to take legal action; the costly burden to prove it exists at a safe level falls on the business owner.

Beyond package labels and chemical lists, new proposed regulations seek to further specify even the acceptable font size for Prop 65 warning signs. Most business owners would not know that the font on a Prop 65 warning must be “no smaller than one half the largest type size used for other consumer information.” The average small business coffee shop owner is likely unaware that he or she may be at serious risk for a frivolous lawsuit because of a minor font size error.

Confused yet? The bottom line is that these regulations exist to cause confusion, and the latest addition of aloe vera to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer only further confuses both consumers and small businesses. Every time a chemical is added to the Prop. 65 list, it simply creates one more avenue for trial lawyers to sue.

If our regulators and legislators in Sacramento spent half as much effort thinking of ways to support small business as they do devising new creative ways to regulate them, perhaps California would not be ranked dead last for its business climate by CEO Magazine ten years in a row, nor would we be listed as the #1 Judicial Hellhole by the American Tort Reform Foundation.

Small businesses reflect the lifeblood of every community across California and the nation. Each day, entrepreneurs struggle to thrive in spite of additional mandates and regulations—now small businesses can add aloe vera to their list of things to worry about. Let’s instead focus on policies that support small business, not regulations that add to the cost of doing business in California.

CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business.

For more than 70 years, the National Federation of Independent Business has been the Voice of Small Business, taking the message from Main Street to the halls of Congress and all 50 state legislatures. NFIB has 350,000 dues-paying members nationally, with over 22,000 in California. NFIB annually surveys its members on state and federal issues vital to their survival as America’s economic engine and biggest creator of jobs. To learn more visit www.NFIB.com/california.

Trial Lawyers Abuse Prop. 65 — At The Expense Of Small Business

Prop. 65 warningThe Center for Accountability in Science released a new video interviewing small businesses about the effects of California’s chemical warning law, known as Proposition 65, on their operations. Rather than making Californians safer, Proposition 65 has become a tool for trial lawyers and their clients to extract large financial settlements from businesses.

The new video highlights the experiences of three small businesses — a golf club cover manufacturer, instrument case manufacturer, and nutritional supplement manufacturer — served lawsuits under Proposition 65, and explains that while their products pose no reasonable risk of harm to consumers, these businesses were still forced to pay thousands in settlement costs for failing to adequately warn consumers.

Certainly, we should tell consumers whether they’re being exposed to toxic substances, but the threshold for warning under Proposition 65 is so low it’s utterly ridiculous. Consumers have no way of looking at a product with a Proposition 65 warning label and understanding their actual risk of harm. So instead of helping consumers make informed decisions impacting their health, the law has morphed into a way for trial lawyers to earn millions from business owners who fail to warn consumers of essentially nonexistent health risks.”

Newly-released figures from the California Attorney General’s office reveal businesses paid over $29 million to settle Proposition 65 lawsuits last year — a 68 percent increase from 2013. Seventy one percent of that total went to trial lawyers. Since 2000, businesses have paid more than $228 million to settle Proposition 65 lawsuits, and $150 million of that total went to plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and costs.

As explained in the video, the cost of defending against a Proposition 65 lawsuit in court—even when a business is innocent—is so high that many small and mid-sized businesses are pressured to settle out-of-court. To ward off future lawsuits, some businesses have started putting labels on all of their products, regardless of whether they actually contain a chemical listed under Proposition 65.

It’s absurd to think consumers are actually at risk of harm from the golf club cover sitting in their garage most of the year or the case used to carry a guitar. These bounty hunter shakedowns highlight the need for California’s legislators to tackle real reform to Proposition 65. The state simply can’t continue allowing lawyers to piggyback off business owners under the guise of protecting Californians.

You can view my paper calling for reforms to Proposition 65 here.

Chief Science Officer for the Center for Accountability in Science

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Chemical Laws Fail Science Test

Every day, we make choices that carry a degree of risk. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for those under 44, but that doesn’t stop us from getting behind the wheel. While we can’t completely reduce our risk of a crash, we can lower it by avoiding risky behaviors like speeding recklessly or texting.

Yet despite the potential deadliness of an automobile crash, car makers aren’t required to put a safety label on vehicles. And even if they did, it’s unlikely that we’d see a dramatic decline in the number of car crashes. It’s curious then that California law requires warning labels on products that pose dramatically less risk.

When California citizens went to the polls in 1986, it probably seemed like a no-brainer to vote for a law that required manufacturers and businesses to warn consumers when they might be exposed to chemicals that could cause cancer or developmental defects. The law, known as Proposition 65, sounds like an excellent public health initiative in theory. In execution, however, the law has created warning label overload.

There are myriad problems with the law. But in a new paper on Proposition 65, I’ve identified two fatal flaws with Proposition 65’s procedures: the threshold for determining whether a chemical poses a health risk is incredibly low, with no way of explaining to consumers the degree of risk exposure to the chemical poses, and the process for determining which chemicals require warning labels is alarmingly unstandardized.

For starters, a chemical earns a place on the state’s list of dangerous chemicals if California regulators find that exposure causes one excess case of cancer in 100,000 individuals over a 70 year period.

To put that in perspective, roughly one in 100,000 people will die from running or playing soccer. At the same time, research has shown that exercise can lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a number of deadly health ailments.

This is precisely why Proposition 65 warning labels are ridiculous — there’s no context for what level of exposure poses an actual risk and when a chemical might actually have health benefits.

Take seafood for example. Researchers have suggested that consuming fish and shellfish has numerous health benefits. They contain a number of essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, but almost all fish contains at least a small amount of mercury. In fact, recent research suggests that consumption of fish by pregnant mothers might actually boost brain development and has no impact on prenatal development.

Mercury is listed as a carcinogen under Proposition 65. Therefore fish in California comes with a warning label.

Scaring consumers away from fish flies directly in the face of U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advice that “Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet.” According to the FDA, “for most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern.” Yet California’s Proposition 65 warnings indicate otherwise to consumers — research suggests the prominent warning labels in restaurants and markets where fish is sold have resulted in a dramatic decline in fish consumption.

This begs the question: How are California’s regulators determining which chemicals are harmful? Unfortunately, as I’ve explained in my new paper, there appears to be no consistent or standardized testing protocols for what constitutes sufficient evidence to label a chemical as either carcinogenic or causing developmental harm. That’s why the state’s chemical decisions can contradict opinions rendered by the FDA, EPA, and other regulatory agencies across the globe. Chemicals are listed even if the scientific consensus isn’t on the state’s side.

To truly make Californians healthier, the state needs to develop a standardized process, ideally with input from outside experts, for determining which chemicals should be listed and explaining the actual risk to consumers. After all, it’s more likely that taking car rides will have you swimming with the fishes than eating fish will put you six feet under.

Dr. Joseph Perrone, Sc.D., is the Chief Science Officer at the Center for Accountability in Science, a project of the nonprofit Center for Organizational Research and Education. CORE is supported by a wide variety of businesses and foundations, including those in the hospitality, agriculture, and energy industries.