OEHHA Persists in 'Ministerial' Prop 65 Listings — A Concern for All Companies Selling in California; Grants AHPA’s Request to Exempt Betelnut Husk

(February 14, 2006, Silver Spring, MD) -- California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has responded to and denied most of the elements of comments filed by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) last November on issues related to California Proposition 65. AHPA’s comments had challenged a novel mechanism utilized by OEHHA over the past year as a shortcut to add new chemicals to the lists it maintains under the State’s Proposition 65. The response came in the form of a letter dated January 26, 2006.

Though the AHPA comments were specifically addressed to OEHHA’s proposed listing of betelnut palm seed (Areca catechu; identified by OEHHA as “areca”) and betel quid, they addressed much broader issues and called into question an apparently arbitrary decision by OEHHA to delegate its authority to a non-governmental agency, thereby misapplying its own regulations and guidelines. AHPA also noted that the review of the carcinogenicity of betelnut palm seed and betel quid was related to the common practice of chewing of these substances for long periods of time, and that this data is not relevant to their consumption in most herbal products. OEHHA’s response disagreed with AHPA’s comments on both the broad and specific issues.

“OEHHA’s response can only be read as an expression of that agency’s belief that it is not always required to provide an opportunity for public review of the scientific basis on which chemicals come to be listed under the State’s Proposition 65,” stated AHPA President Michael McGuffin. “In a state that values transparency, this is an extraordinary precedent that should be cause for concern to all companies that sell any product to consumers in California.”

OEHHA announced on February 3, 2006, that it has now listed “areca” seed and betel quid as chemicals known by the State to cause cancer. In the notice that accompanied these listings, OEHHA noted, as AHPA had requested, that other parts of the betelnut palm plant, such as the husk, are not affected by their ruling. Companies making or selling products in California that contain betelnut palm seed will need to consider providing a Proposition 65 warning within 12 months of the date of listing.

AHPA’s November 21, 2005, comments to OEHHA can be found at http://www.ahpa.org/05_1121_AHPAComments_Areca.pdf and OEHHA’s response at http://www.ahpa.org/06_0126_OEHHA_Response_Areca.pdf.


The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is the only national trade association devoted solely to herbal issues. Representing the core of the botanical trade -- comprised of the finest growers, processors, manufacturers and marketers of herbal products -- AHPA’s mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal
products. AHPA committees generate self-regulations to ensure the highest level of quality with respect to
the way herbs are manufactured, labeled, and sold. Website: www.ahpa.org

Karen Robin, Director of Communications
Telephone: (301) 588-1171, x-107
Email: [email protected]

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