PANUPS: Calif Sued over Toxic Chems
P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network
August 8, 1997
Environment/Labor Coalition Sues California
A coalition of environmental and labor groups filed a lawsuit
on August 6, 1997 against California Governor Pete Wilson and
the State's Environmental Protection Agency for failing to
warn residents about potential exposures to scores of toxins.
The lawsuit targets the State for failing to list 66
reproductive and developmental toxins under the Safe Drinking
Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also called
Proposition 65. The governor, through action of the Office of
Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), is required
to list chemicals which are known reproductive toxins or
carcinogens and to update the list every year. However, the
State has yet to take action on 66 reproductive toxins placed
on the U.S. Toxic Release Inventory by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) over two and a half years ago.
The coalition filing the suit includes the Natural Resources
Defense Council, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Pesticide
Action Network North America, Pesticide Watch, CALPIRG
Charitable Trust, Environmental Defense Fund, the AFL-CIO and
United Farm Workers.
Proposition 65, approved by voters in 1986, requires that
prior warning be given before exposing any person to a toxin
"known to the State" to cause cancer, birth-defects or other
reproductive harm. Warning requirements enable Californians
to avoid unnecessary exposure, and create an incentive for
manufacturers to seek safer chemical alternatives.
Proposition 65 is credited with leading to the reformulation
of many products and for reducing emissions of listed toxins
from industrial facilities across the state.
There are two ways that chemicals can get listed under
Proposition 65. The chemical could be identified by an
"authoritative body" as a carcinogen or reproductive toxicant
or it could be listed by the "state's qualified experts" -- a
panel of scientists. According to the coalition, U.S. EPA is
a designated "authoritative body" under Prop. 65, and
therefore when a chemical is formally identified by U.S. EPA
as a carcinogen or a reproductive toxicant, it must then be
listed by OEHHA.
The coalition states that U.S. EPA formally identified the 66
chemicals as reproductive toxicants in 1994 when the Agency
included them in a list added to the Toxics Release Inventory
(TRI). TRI is the federal right-to-know law that requires
industry to disclose emissions and transfers of toxic
chemicals. In the final ruling which listed the 66 toxins
under TRI, U.S. EPA stated: "Moreover, the adverse effects
associated with each of the chemicals being listed today are
serious and significant. In some cases the effects are
extreme, such as cancer or death. In others, the effects are
serious and lasting, including, for example, impairment of a
fetus' or an offspring's physical development, neurological
effects inhibiting motor abilities or mental processes, or
impairing the ability to reproduce."
OEHHA claims that because U.S. EPA listed chemicals under the
TRI which are "known or reasonably anticipated" to cause
reproductive harm, not all of the chemicals should be
considered "known" reproductive toxicants under Prop. 65, and
that further review is required by the State.
According to a report released by Californians for Pesticide
Reform, use of the 66 toxins is widespread in California. In
1995 (the most recent year for which data are available), one
in every eight pounds of pesticides applied in California
agriculture was a reproductive toxin that should have been
subject to the Prop. 65 warning requirements.
These pesticides are used in agriculture in every California
county and on over 75 food crops. California carrots,
tomatoes, potatoes and rice each received over one million
pounds of pesticides identified as reproductive toxins but
not listed under Proposition 65. Seven of the 66 toxins are
used in household pest control products -- many for pet
products that may be sources of exposure to children.
Sources: NRDC/CALPIRG Charitable Trust press release, August
6, 1997. "Broken Trust: How Cal-EPA has kept Californians in
the Dark about 66 reproductive toxins," August 5, 1997,
CALPIRG Charitable Trust, NRDC, Californians for Pesticide
For a list of the 66 chemicals, contact
For a copy of "Broken Trust," contact CPR at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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