The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s (OEHHA) proposed modification of the maximum allowable dose level (MADL) for lead will increase litigation risk and unnecessary warning labels under Proposition 65, a coalition of 80 industry groups spearheaded by the California Chamber of Commerce says.
In response to a petition filed by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), OEHHA is proposing to replace the existing 0.5µg/day MADL for lead with a set of 13 distinct safe harbor levels, based on exposure duration.
However, CEH, along with other NGOs, and a coalition of more than 80 industry stakeholders–spearheaded by the California Chamber of Commerce – say in written comments that OEHHA’s proposal is “problematic.”
Commenting parties agreed that the proposal would:
lead to increased litigation and costs, as businesses would need to undertake costly complex analysis to determine the frequency of exposure; and
increase the occurrence of unnecessary warning labels, as companies would follow the most conservative safe harbor level – the single day MADL – to avoid risk of litigation.
In its comments the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) says: “While we agree with OEHHA’s goals in adopting a new MADL for lead, we cannot support this incarnation of such a regulation and will vigorously oppose it. We see little hope it would survive review.”
In addition to concerns over the intermittent exposure approach, the CEH says that the 15µg/day blood lead level (BLL) – upon which the agency based its MADLs – cannot by definition “represent a No Observable Effect Level” (NOEL), given that cited studies demonstrate reproductive effects at lower levels.
CEH says the agency should revise and re-propose a single MADL, based on a NOEL of 2-3µg/dL.
The industry coalition also says that 15µg/dL NOEL “is not adequately justified,” given “incongruous findings” in the cited study that showed no effects at levels as high as 45µg/dL. It argues that the uncertainty factor used by the agency to calculate Prop 65 threshold values is inappropriate.
“Many toxicologists, including some at OEHHA, have stated that the 1000-fold uncertainty factor is unjustified as both a scientific and policy matter – and particularly with respect to a chemical like lead that has been studied extensively.”
The coalition argues that the agency did not provide “sufficient time for the coalition to comment on this highly technical proposal,” parts of which were made available less than 24 hours before the October 14 workshop. A request for an extension was denied, it adds.
The coalition urges OEHHA to “reconsider this proposal and certainly to not move forward with the levels or concepts proposed.”