Watchdog Group Urges Brown: Put Our Children’s Health First!

Oakland, CA-The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) today supports Governor Jerry Brown’s intention to strengthen California’s environmental and consumer protection law known as Prop 65, by upholding the law’s intention while adding protections for small businesses and providing better information to consumers.   However, CEH is concerned that the Governor’s approach may undermine important provisions of the law that have worked for 25 years to protect millions of Californians from unsafe products and pollution of our air and drinking water.

“Our work has proven time and time again that Californians need all the protection the law provides against harmful pollution and products that can make our children and families sick,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “We hope to work closely with Governor Brown to improve the law while maintaining critical protections for our children’s health.”

In a press statement, the Governor proposed a number of changes to Prop 65, including limiting attorney’s fees, requiring stronger evidence and more disclosure by plaintiffs, setting limits on funds to plaintiffs for their health and environmental protection work, loosening Prop 65 requirements for certain chemicals, and calling for more information when Prop 65 warnings are required.

But CEH is especially concerned that allowing higher levels of some chemicals that can cause reproductive health problems would lead to more harmful products in our homes. Had the Governor’s proposal been in force when CEH found high levels of lead in children’s jewelry, for example, the safety level at the time of 600 parts per million could have been 6,000 ppm, meaning children could have been legally exposed to even more harmful jewelry.

On the positive side, CEH supports Brown’s idea to provide consumers improved warnings when chemicals threaten their health. “Consumers and workers have a right to know about the chemicals that can harm their children and families,” said Green. “Vague and confusing warning signs should not satisfy the law’s warning provision.”

In its Prop 65 legal work over the past 16 years, CEH has won major victories to protect California’s children and families. As a result, millions of Californians today – and millions of children and adults across the country – are no longer at risk from cancer-causing products, products that expose us to reproductive toxins, and from harmful pollution of our air and drinking water.

Before and during Brown’s tenure as Attorney General, CEH investigations exposed numerous health threats to California children and families, resulting in hundreds of landmark Prop 65 legal agreements. Among these were agreements with dozens of major companies, including Target, Macy’s, Chrysler, Disney and many others that require the companies to eliminate cancer-causing chemicals, lead poisoning risks, and other serious health threats to children and adults.

For example, in 2008 CEH and Attorney General Brown jointly announced a Prop 65 settlement with artificial turf maker AstroTurf, requiring the company to eliminate lead threats to children who play on turf fields. Follow-up settlements with other major turf companies resulted in industry-wide changes in turf production to eliminate lead risks, and the settlements also funded a state study into other turf safety issues and a turf testing and monitoring program.

Other examples of pollution eliminated and products made safer by CEH through its Prop 65 legal action working with the Attorney General’s office and as a private enforcer include, among others:

  • Dozens of lead-tainted children’s products, including toys, baby bibs, diaper rash creams, children’s lunchboxes, children’s jewelry, candy, and many other children’s products. CEH’s Prop 65 work on lead-tainted candy formed the basis of the California lead-in-candy law and our Prop 65 work on other children’s products directly influenced Congressional action that resulted in the first-ever federal law banning lead from all children’s products;
  • Wood playground equipment made with cancer-causing arsenic-based preservatives;
  • Home water filters that released lead into “filtered” water;
  • Lead-based auto wheel weights, which regulators had identified as the largest new route of lead releases into the environment;
  • Lead and cadmium-tainted jewelry and lead-tainted handbags sold by major retailers and hundreds of their suppliers; CEH’s jewelry settlements formed the basis for California’s lead and cadmium jewelry law, the strongest such law in the country;
  • Millions of pounds of emissions of harmful air pollutants, including from dozens of facilities located in residential neighborhoods and/or near schools and playgrounds.

The Center for Environmental Health has a sixteen-year track record of protecting children and families from harmful chemicals in our air, water, food and in dozens of every day products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.

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