If you live in California, you’ve seen them everywhere: those warning labels announcing that something you’re about to touch, eat, smell, or breathe near could give you cancer or adversely affect your reproductive health. Yes, the state of California contains chemicals. So do the other 49 states. And the vast majority of them are completely harmless. But that hasn’t stopped environmental activists, trial lawyers, and do-gooder regulators from making general nuisances of themselves for fun and profit, thanks to the state’s “Proposition 65” law.
But this month, Californians in Orange County, Eureka, Pasadena, West Covina, and Whittier have received a dose of warning-label common sense from the Center for Consumer Freedom. Our opinion column notes that not only are most California warnings unfounded (take the latest silly cancer warnings on French fries and potato chips, for example), but the entire system is about to get worse:
The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the agency that enforces Prop. 65, is poised to attach another ring to this circus. The agency has proposed to loosen the standards that add new chemicals to its enforcement list. Under the new system, any chemical that’s considered harmful by the California Department of Labor would also qualify for a Prop. 65 warning label. But the state Labor Code itself incorporates every single chemical considered harmful by the federal government, without regard to its level of exposure.
And here’s why that matters: In Washington, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can declare that a chemical is dangerous if just one research study says it might pose a threat, despite other studies claiming otherwise.
Sacramento can already take scary-sounding chemicals and frighten people on the basis of a few parts-per-billion that will never add up to anything risky. But now perfectly ordinary substances will get a Mr. Yuk poison-control label because the federal government –– 3,500 miles away –– has found a single study concluding they might be harmful in doses you will never encounter.
Are they serious? You bet they are. By this standard, it will eventually be easier to list the foods that don’t require warning labels. But fear not! We have a solution:
Perhaps it’s time to short-circuit the entire process. What we really need is a billboard on every beach, inside every airport and train station, at every interstate border crossing, and inside every hospital delivery room: “WARNING: The State of California contains chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
We’ve all been duly warned. No more lawsuits. We can go back to eating our potato chips in peace.