California is known for its progressive and aggressive laws designed to give the public notice of chemical dangers to which people could be exposed. In the November 1986 election, the voting public enacted Proposition 65, a wide-ranging ballot initiative designed to protect drinking water from contamination and to mandate that businesses give people notice of exposure to toxic chemicals linked to birth defects and reproductive harm or to cancer.
Asbestos Is a Prop 65 chemical
Pursuant to the “Prop 65,” as it is sometimes called, a comprehensive list of covered chemicals was compiled and, of course, asbestos is on that list since it is a known carcinogen. Asbestos is known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the linings around internal organs, especially of the lungs.
On February 23, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment or OEHHA, a state agency within the California Environmental Protection Agency or CalEPA, published official notice that it is proposing an amendment to the regulations under Prop 65. The proposed change would “adopt tailored safe harbor exposure warnings for exposures to listed chemicals that can occur at residential rental properties …” in response to a specific request.
The agency in its Initial Statement of Reasons (available by link from the official notice) states that the request for more specific regulatory guidance about what constitutes adequate notice came from the California Apartment Association or CAA.
Public Comment Period Is Open
The agency notice invites the public to submit written comments on the proposed regulatory changes. The comment period is currently open and closes at 5pm on April 16, 2018.
The Initial Statement of Reasons includes a “tailored warning” example for asbestos in residential rental property:
“WARNING: Asbestos-containing materials, including some ceiling coatings on this property can, if damaged or disturbed, expose you to asbestos, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer. Talk to your landlord or the building manager about how and when you could be exposed to this chemical in your building. For additional information go to https://www.p65warnings.ca.gov/.”
The warning would also be preceded by a specifically designed yellow triangle indicating danger.
Here at our law firm, we will watch this regulatory action with interest in the hope that more comprehensive and specific public warnings will be developed for those renting homes and apartments in California.