To help furniture manufacturers operating in the Californian market, SGS experts have answered some of the common questions relating to compliance with California Proposition 65 (Prop 65).
Prop 65, the "Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986", is a unique right-to-know law that requires the state to maintain a list of chemicals (Prop 65 List) that are known to cause cancer, birth defects and/or reproductive harm. In addition, it requires companies doing business in California to provide ‘a clear and reasonable warning’, the Prop 65 Warning, before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to a substance on the Prop 65 List.
It can be difficult for manufacturers and suppliers of furniture to know how to operate under Prop 65. Furniture can be made from a wide variety of components and materials. Legs may be metal, frames may be composite wood, and coverings may be woolen, each may also have different coatings, stains, sealants or lacquers. To comply with Prop 65, the manufacturer needs to be sure each of these is complaint with its requirements.
Manufacturers of products that are made from multiple materials can take one of two approaches to assessing whether their product complies with Prop 65:
- Risk-based assessment – involves testing only for high-risk chemicals as shown by looking at Prop 65 settlements. High-risk substances have traditionally included lead, phthalates, formaldehyde, and PU foam and fabric flame retardants. SGS also reminds stakeholders that they should be aware bisphenol A (BPA) and hexavalent chromium VI are now also regularly targeted.
- Product-based assessment – unique to SGS. This service considers all the chemicals listed under Prop 65, giving greater assurance to manufacturers
A common area of concern is whether a Prop 65 warning is required if furniture foam is completely covered. The answer is, it is because chemical exposure is not restricted to direct skin contact. It also includes inhalation and ingestion. For example, in the case of chlorinated tris (TDCPP), this will gradually be released from treated products into indoor environments. Once it is released, it will be present on surfaces, in the air, and on dust, allowing inhalation exposure.
Another area of misunderstanding relates to EU/UK fire safety regulations that restrict flame retardants in PU foams. Stakeholders therefore wonder if the same products can be used in California but with the warning label. The difference is, Prop 65 does not ban chemicals. Prop 65 merely makes businesses responsible for providing clear and reasonable warnings on products containing listed chemicals that may cause cancer or reproductive harm.
In a similar way, EU REACH test methods are not acceptable for Prop 65. Prop 65 provides a safe harbor level to guide businesses in determining whether a warning is necessary. Safe harbor levels reference a daily exposure limit (µg/day). This is completely different to the chemical total content of a product (mg/Kg) that is used in REACH, and the one cannot be converted into the other.
Stakeholders can use the results from REACH test methods for comparison with reformulation limits made in settlement agreements. They should be aware, however, these settlement agreements are not legally binding on third-parties not named in the settlement and may not, therefore, afford any protection against Prop 65 litigation.
Confusion is also seen with regards to compliance with CARB Phase 2 or TSCA Title VI and the need for labeling for formaldehyde emissions. Because Prop 65 is independent of federal chemical use or composition standards, the one does not impact the other. The requirements of Prop 65 also relate to exposure levels rather than the amount of an individual chemical in the product.
Stakeholders should be aware, however, that after CARB and TSCA became effective there were no more formaldehyde settlements or 60-day notices relating to composite wood furniture. It is therefore possible to say, CARB Phase 2 or TSCA Title VI compliant composite wood furniture can be considered low risk for formaldehyde.
Finally, manufacturers also often want to know if there is a definitive way to determine, in the field, if a product exceeds the no significant risk level (NSRL) for formaldehyde. In fact, the only way to check if a product contains a listed chemical exceeding the NSRL is through safe harbor assessment. Safe harbor level is a daily exposure limit (µg/day), which is completely different to the product’s chemical total content (mg/Kg) and one cannot be converted into the other.
A full list of settlements and 60-day notices can be found on the California Attorney General’s website.
To learn more about Prop 65, read SGS’s Q&A “Understanding California Proposition 65: Commonly Asked Questions”.
SGS Prop 65 Services
With a global network of laboratories, SGS can offer comprehensive testing, product assessment and consultancy services related to California Proposition 65. SGS can assist your risk management strategy in consumer goods, such as DIYs, electrical and electronics, hardgoods products, juvenile products, and textile & toy products. Learn more about SGS’s Prop 65 Services.
For more information, please contact:
Technical Manager - Restricted Substances
SGS - North America, Inc.
Tel: +1 (973) 461 7950
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