Glyphosate—active ingredient in weed killers to be added to Proposition 65 list of chemicals

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SACRAMENTO – Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® and many other weed killers, is being added to California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced today.

The effective date of the listing will depend on the outcome of a request for a stay in the Fresno County Superior Court case Monsanto v OEHHA. The lawsuit challenged OEHHA’s ability to list the chemical. The trial court ruled in OEHHA’s favor, but Monsanto is appealing the decision and asking the Court of Appeal to issue a stay that would block the listing while the appeal is pending. OEHHA is opposing Monsanto’s request.

Proposition 65 is a right-to-know law that California voters approved in 1986. It requires the state to maintain a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.  Proposition 65 does not ban or restrict the use of listed chemicals. Instead, it requires businesses to provide warnings prior to causing a significant exposure to a listed chemical. It also prohibits discharges of the chemical into sources of drinking water.

The requirement to provide warnings takes effect one year after a chemical is added to the list. Warnings must be clear and reasonable and can be provided in a variety of ways, including on product labels or on signs near where the exposure can occur.

OEHHA is also proposing a regulatory “safe-harbor” level for glyphosate of 1100 micrograms per day, which means that exposures below that level are not considered a significant risk and would not require a warning. The proposal begins a 45-day public comment period that will end on May 22.

The safe-harbor level helps businesses determine when a warning is required. Once the warning requirement takes effect, businesses with 10 or more employees who cause exposures above the safe harbor level may need to provide warnings. It is not known at this time which products and exposures would exceed the safe-harbor level and require warnings.

Glyphosate is being added to the list because it was identified by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as causing cancer in animals. Proposition 65 requires that certain chemicals identified as carcinogens by IARC under the California Labor Code must be added to the list.

OEHHA is the lead agency for implementation of Proposition 65 and has established a website that provides information for Californians about their exposures to toxic chemicals from the products they buy and the places they go. The website – www.p65warnings.ca.gov(link is external) – is a central part of OEHHA’s efforts to update and improve the implementation of Proposition 65. The office also maintains and updates the Proposition 65 list of chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive effects.

In addition, OEHHA is the primary state entity for the assessment of risks posed by chemical contaminants in the environment.  Its mission is to protect and enhance public health and the environment by scientific evaluation of risks posed by hazardous substances.

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