Court Holds California Must List Dangerous Chemicals to Protect Consumers

Ruling Protects Drinking Water and People by Expanding Warnings for Harmful Substances

San Francisco, CA (April 30, 2009) – The Alameda Superior Court has ruled that California’s landmark “right-to-know” and safe drinking water protection law, Proposition 65, must be extended to toxic chemicals known to cause cancer and reproductive harm identified under worker protection standards. The ruling finds in favor of labor and environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, United Steelworkers and Sierra Club that fought the case against the California Chamber of Commerce.

Under Proposition 65, California annually publishes a list of chemicals that warms consumers of harmful substances and prohibits the discharges of listed chemicals into drinking water sources.  For many years, California has failed to include a number of carcinogens and reproductive toxins on the list that were already the subject of workplace warning requirements.

“This is a victory for the health of all California families and communities, who have a right to know when they are exposed to chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects,” said Michael E. Wall, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This decision will prevent bureaucratic delays from standing in the way of health and drinking water protections.”

The court held that California has an annual legal duty to update the Proposition 65 list with carcinogens and reproductive toxins identified under worker protection standards. The groups sued the state in 2007 over its wholesale failure to keep the Proposition 65 list current in light of new science and revised workplace protections. The court’s ruling rejected an argument made by the California Chamber of Commerce in a consolidated lawsuit. 

"Californians have a right to know whether household products like frying pans and food packaging are putting our families and workers at risk," said Bill Magavern, Director of Sierra Club California. "That's why the voters passed Proposition 65, and the state needs to fully enforce the law."

Precisely which chemicals California must now add to the Proposition 65 list is still in dispute, but more than 90 additional chemicals identified in workplace safety standards are at issue. Examples of chemicals that are likely to be listed as a result of this ruling include: styrene, a principal ingredient in various plastic and foam products, gasoline additives such as tert-amyl methyl ether (TAME), and carbaryl, a common lawn and garden pesticide.