On January 7, 2011, the state of California decided to list under Proposition 65 the chemical 4-methyl-imidazole (4-MEI), and proposed to establish a no significant risk level (NSRL) at 16 micrograms per day.

After a one-year grace period, companies selling products containing 4-MEI will be required to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to this chemical. This warning can be given by a variety of means, such as by labeling a consumer product, by shelf labeling in stores, by posting signs at the workplace or by publishing notices in a newspaper. A warning must be given unless a business demonstrates that the exposure caused by the use of its product poses no significant risk.

4-MEI is used in the manufacture of various products, including some pharmaceuticals, dyes, pigments and agricultural products, and is created in certain foods through the heating process. Like acrylamide, which has also been listed under Prop 65, foods containing 4-MEI as a result of heating include coffee, some carbonated beverages, beer and wine, soy sauce, molasses and crackers.

Proposition 65 (formally titled “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986”) is a California law that promotes clean drinking water and keeps chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects out of consumer products. It is administered by Cal/EPA’s Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). Among other things, Prop 65 requires that warnings be provided with consumer products that expose persons to listed substances. Prop 65 is enforced through citizen civil lawsuits, in addition to lawsuits brought by the attorney general or other government prosecutors.

The proposed regulation to establish the NSRL at 16 micrograms per day can be viewed at http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65/law/010711nsrl.html.

OEHHA will be receiving public comments in writing on this proposed regulation until 5 p.m. on Monday, February 21, 2011.

Written comments can be sent by e-mail, mail or fax addressed to:

Monet Vela  

Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment  

Proposition 65 Implementation Program  

P. O. Box 4010  

Sacramento, California 95812-4010  

FAX: (916) 324-1786  

Telephone: (916) 323-2517  

mvela@oehha.ca.gov