From Martyn Reding on Twitter:
When the design team loses a debate with the legal team. pic.twitter.com/oYTnvNVqQ0
— Martyn Reding (@martynreding) August 21, 2018
I’m quoted at length in a piece on why California’s Proposition 65, despite public scorn and outrage over cases like the latest on coffee warnings, is so hard to reform.
“The bias is toward listing chemicals just to be cautious even though they probably are not harmful, counting ‘exposures’ such as poker chips and doorknobs that are unlikely to touched in such a way as to transfer relevant amounts of chemicals to the human body, and concentrations that are almost certainly harmless under likeliest-case rather than worst-case scenarios,” Olson said.
The senior fellow said people will nod in agreement when asked if they should be warned of risks to health.
“But every time I start my car and drive it onto the street I create a risk of hitting you as a pedestrian,” Olson said. “Do you have a right to be warned of that risk? Each time, or only once?”
He added the balance of scientific opinion these days leans toward the view that moderate coffee drinking probably provides overall health benefits and maybe even net anti-cancer benefits.
“The idea of putting a cancer warning on such a product is not merely irrelevant to public health goals, but actively in conflict with them,” Olson said.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled Wednesday that coffee merchants are liable under Prop 65 for not warning of the possible cancer risks of the beverage. I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty noting that the primary problem is with the law itself, jealously guarded by lawyers who make out well from it. Excerpt:
Almost everyone agrees by now that the over-proliferation of warnings makes it less likely that consumers will pay attention to those few warnings that actually flag notable risks. …
What happens next? As the Post reports, “In addition to the warning signs likely to result from the lawsuit, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, which brought the lawsuit, has asked for fines as much as $2,500 for every person exposed to the chemical since 2002, potentially opening the door to massive settlements.” And the financial shakedown value here is far from incidental; it’s the very motor that keeps the law going.
Earlier here. See also Michael Marlow, Cato “Regulation,” 2013-14 (study finds “little to no statistical support” that Proposition 65 “significantly influenced cancer incidence in California.”) And a furniture warning via Timothy Lee (link fixed now). More: Omri Ben-Shahar, AICR (evidence that coffee is cancer-protective on net).
From Bill Childs on Twitter:
“WARNING: Cycling can be dangerous. Bicycle products should be installed and serviced by a professional mechanic. Never modify your bicycle or accessories. Read and follow all product instructions and warnings including information on the manufacturer’s website. Inspect your bicycle before every ride. Always wear a helmet and use lights at night. Failure to heed any of these warnings may result in serious injury or death.”
Which, as Bill says, seems a bit much for a warning on a bicycle bell.
Last fall the editors of the Vermont Law Review were kind enough to invite me to participate in a discussion on food and product labeling, part of a day-long conference “The Disclosure Debates” with panels on environmental, financial, and campaign disclosure. Other panelists included Christine DeLorme of the Federal Trade Commission, Division of Advertising Practices; Brian Dunkiel, Dunkiel Saunders; George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety; and David Zuckerman, Vermont State Senator and Farmer, Full Moon Farm.
“I guess you can never be too careful with your Christmas lights.” — @doctorwes
A few other highlights of Overlawyered Christmas coverage past: