On April 23, 2018, California’s the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced it is proposing to amend Article 6 of Title 27 of the California Code of Regulations (C.C.R.), Section 25603, specifically the safe harbor warning content for on product warnings for exposures to listed chemicals in pesticides. OEHHA states that this regulation is “intended to provide compliance assistance for businesses that cause pesticide exposures in order to reduce the potential for litigation concerning the sufficiency of warnings, while still allowing them to comply with other federal and state requirements for warnings provided on a label.” It is a part of the new Article 6 Clear and Reasonable Warnings regulations, which OEHHA adopted in August 2016 and which becomes effective on August 30, 2018. These new regulations include safe harbor warning methods and content for consumer product exposures (Sections 25602 and 25603) and occupational exposures (Section 25606) to listed chemicals. The Initial Statement of Reasons (ISOR) is available here and the proposed regulatory text is available here. The ISOR summarizes the proposed rulemaking:

  • This proposed rulemaking would add a new subsection (d) to Section 25603, addressing safe harbor warning content for on product labels for consumer product and occupational exposures to listed chemicals from the use of pesticides where those labels are regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and related California laws and regulations.
  • This new subsection would further the “right-to-know” purposes of the statute and clarify the content of safe harbor warnings for exposures that can occur from the use of pesticide products, where those warnings are provided on a label that is regulated under FIFRA and certain California laws.

The issue that OEHHA intends this proposal to address stems from the fact that OEHHA’s revised warning requirements require the signal word “WARNING” but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “historically has not approved labels containing the terms ‘caution,’ ‘warning,’ or ‘danger,’ unless the word is the same as the [EPA]-required signal word for that label.” Thus, OEHHA is proposing the following regulatory exception from the “WARNING” requirement:

  • Notwithstanding subsection (a)(2) or (b)(2) [setting forth the content of consumer product exposure warnings], where a warning for a consumer product exposure or occupational exposure from use of a pesticide is provided on a product label, and the pesticide label is regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 156; and by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation under Food and Agricultural Code section 14005, and Cal. Code of Regs., title 3, section 6242; the word “ATTENTION” or “NOTICE” in capital letters and bold type may be substituted for the word “WARNING.”

OEHHA states this is intended to be a “narrow exception” and that it is only intended to apply where EPA and California Department of Pesticide Regulations (CDPR) signal words and the Proposition 65 (Prop 65) signal word conflict. This proposal is intended to address the concerns of pesticide registrants encountering problems when they attempted to amend their EPA-approved labels to include the Prop 65 “WARNING” signal word. It remains unclear, however, whether the OEHHA proposal will fully address EPA’s concerns, and what effect it will have on EPA’s ability to approve labels that contain the language at issue. Registrants should review the proposal carefully and monitor closely EPA’s actions concerning it and this issue more generally.

Comments are due by June 11, 2018, and can be submitted to OEHHA via its website. OEHHA states that any requests for a public hearing on this proposed regulatory amendment should be submitted by May 25, 2018.