Manufacturers in California are concerned that state regulators are considering adding 11 chemicals to the list of hazardous substances requiring the posting of notices under the state's Proposition 65 law including marijuana smoke, caffeine and many chemicals used in manufacturing.


In September, the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment issued a notice of preliminary consideration for adding the 11 chemicals and chemical substances to the list required under Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. That starts a one-year process of evaluating health studies and other data to determine whether each of the chemicals causes harm to the human reproductive system or has other health impacts sufficient to merit listing as a toxic chemical.


Once a chemical or chemical substance is listed, facilities and products using the chemical must post "hazard identification" notices, either at the facility or on the product packaging. For many Proposition 65 chemicals, facilities must also post notices in local publications warning the surrounding public of possible exposure to toxic chemicals.


As for caffeine, it would only be listed when it's added to products, such as pharmaceuticals or sodas. When it occurs naturally, as it does in coffee and tea, Proposition 65 exempts it from listing.


This wouldn't mark the first time the agency has targeted such a popular component in foods or beverages. It's also considering whether to list acrylamides, common byproducts of the deep-frying process.


And despite Proposition 215, which legalized the medical use of marijuana in California with a doctor's note, marijuana smoke made the list because it could potentially meet scientific criteria for having negative health impacts, particularly on the reproductive system, said Sam Delson, spokesman for the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.


Also making the list are hexavalent chromium a chemical of wide-ranging industrial use that was the infamous target of legal investigator Erin Brokovich and several chemicals used in various other industrial processes. They include trinitrotoluene, bromodichloromethane and sulfur dioxide. Most of these chemicals are used in manufacturing processes or in pesticides.


While the posting of notices can be burdensome for companies large and small, that's not the biggest problem for manufacturers. With the emphasis now on all things green, having to notify the public that your product or operation uses chemicals deemed to be toxic can be a marketing disaster. Many companies are thus forced to hunt for less toxic alternatives. But there's a downside.


"There are a large number of companies that would move away from using these chemicals in their formulations or processes, if they can," said Gino diCaro, spokesman for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. "The problem is that alternatives are often either not as effective or their health risks not as well understood," he said.


In fact, sometimes the alternative chemicals themselves end up being listed as toxic a few years later.


Skyscraper Blues

High-rise building owners, managers and tenants beware: higher regulatory fees are on the way.


The City of Los Angeles is about to raise its annual high-rise building inspection fees 26 percent to generate an additional $385,000 to offset rising inspection staffing costs.


The Board of Fire Commissioners held a hearing on the inspection fee increase Sept. 18. With no written or verbal comments received, the board rubber-stamped the increase and sent it on to the mayor and council for review and final approval within 60 days.


Under the new fee structure, which could take effect within days of final approval, high-rise building owners would pay $1.11 per 100 square feet of building area and $0.56 per 100 square feet of parking garage space. Each of these represents a 26.1 percent increase from current levels.


So, for a 500,000 square foot building, the annual inspection fee would be $5,550, up from about the current level of $4,400.


Regulation Worries

Complying with regulations, although necessary, can hurt the bottom line. That's the conclusion of a just-released nationwide survey of 142 executives holding compliance or information technology positions. The survey was conducted by Mountain View-based Polivec Inc., which sells regulatory compliance software.


Forty percent of the executives surveyed said that complying with regulations "inhibits the ability of our organization to function and grow productively."


By far the most painful regulation for these executives is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, with 46 percent saying this law passed by Congress in the wake of the Enron scandal generates the greatest expense and inefficiency for their companies.


Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or at hfine@labusinessjournal.com.

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