Logo of OEHHA
|Headquarters||1001 I Street|
|Annual budget||$17.5 mil total; $8.3 mil general fund|
|Parent agency||California Environmental Protection Agency|
The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, commonly referred to as OEHHA (pronounced oh-EEE-ha), is a specialized department within the cabinet-level California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) with responsibility for evaluating health risks from environmental chemical contaminants.
The California Environmental Protection Agency, or CalEPA, is a state cabinet-level agency within the government of California. The mission of CalEPA is to restore, protect and enhance the environment, to ensure public health, environmental quality and economic vitality.
OEHHA is the scientific adviser within CalEPA and provides the health effects assessments that assist regulatory decision makers within CalEPA, the California Department of Public Health, and other agencies and non-governmental organizations (see below). This includes assessing health and environmental risks from:
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is the state department responsible for public health in California. It is a subdivision of the California Health and Human Services Agency. One of its functions is to oversee vital records operations throughout the state. As of July 2019, the department is led by Acting Director Susan Fanelli, who also serves as Chief Deputy Director of Policy & Programs. Charity Dean, MD, MPH is the Acting State Public Health Officer and also serves as the Assistant Director. On September 13, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Sonia Angell, MD, MPH as the CDPH Director.
A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that promotes carcinogenesis, the formation of cancer. This may be due to the ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes. Several radioactive substances are considered carcinogens, but their carcinogenic activity is attributed to the radiation, for example gamma rays and alpha particles, which they emit. Common examples of non-radioactive carcinogens are inhaled asbestos, certain dioxins, and tobacco smoke. Although the public generally associates carcinogenicity with synthetic chemicals, it is equally likely to arise in both natural and synthetic substances. Carcinogens are not necessarily immediately toxic; thus, their effect can be insidious.
Reproductive toxicity is a hazard associated with some chemical substances, which interfere in some way with normal reproduction; such substances are called reprotoxic. They may adversely affect sexual function and fertility in adult males and females, as well as causing developmental toxicity in the offspring. Reproductive toxicity is usually defined practically, to include several different effects which are unrelated to each other except in their outcome of lowered effective fertility. The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) separates reproductive toxicity from germ cell mutagenicity and carcinogenicity, even though both these hazards may also affect fertility.
Air pollution occurs when harmful or excessive quantities of substances including gases, particles, and biological molecules are introduced into Earth's atmosphere. It may cause diseases, allergies and even death to humans; it may also cause harm to other living organisms such as animals and food crops, and may damage the natural or built environment. Both human activity and natural processes can generate air pollution.
In May 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed to "eliminate and transfer the functions" of OEHHA (and other agencies) as part his May Revise for the 2009–2010 budget.Details about the transfer of functions including mandates, funding, staff resources, and new head agency are limited. Elimination of OEHHA will have a very minor impact on the budget problems because of several reasons: (1) OEHHA's budget is very small (1/500th of 1% of the General Fund, or 1/50,000th) compared to the state deficit; $8.3 million of OEHHA's budget is general fund (2) about half of OEHHA's budget is funded by special funds (e.g. Proposition 65, Biomonitoring) (3) state mandates that transfer to other agencies or departments will still require funding.
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American politician, actor, filmmaker, businessman, author, and former professional bodybuilder. He served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 to 2011.
By an executive order from the Governor in February 2009, all state workers are on a two-day-a-month furlough, or two days off without pay, equivalent to a 10% pay cut. On May 28, 2009 Governor Schwarzenegger proposed an additional 5% pay cut for all state workers (without an adjustment to the number of days worked), resulting a total pay cut of 15%; this additional cut must be approved by the legislature.
In the United States, a furlough is a temporary leave of employees due to special needs of a company or employer, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole. These involuntary furloughs may be short or long term, and many of those affected may seek other temporary employment during that time.
Many have questioned the Governor's motivation for cutting OEHHA. Some have proposed this cut was spearheaded by industries who have been in conflict with OEHHA and several industries have been proposed as "suspects."An international petition to save OEHHA, titled "Doctors and Scientists for Environmental Health", has also been circulating and has over 200 signatures from California, the U.S. and over 20 other countries worldwide.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.
On June 2, 2009 articles and editorials/opinions were published in the Los Angeles Times , Sacramento Bee , California Progress Report, SFGate and others that speak to the importance of OEHHA and further explain how cutting OEHHA would not save a significant source of funding.These timely articles coincide with the California Budget Conference Committee hearings, with public testimony, that occurred on the afternoon of June 2, 2009.
On June 2, 2009 the Budget Conference Committee convened a hearing for public comment on the Governor's budget proposal. The hearing is archived on video, the testimony on behalf of OEHHA begins at 3:49:11The supporters of OEHHA proposed and alternative to keep OEHHA intact and save $8.3 million, OEHHA's general fund budget. The proposal includes alternative funding sources and also expands OEHHA with the addition of Department Pesticide Regulation's risk assessment activities, Department of Toxic Substances Control's hazard evaluation functions, and lead roles in the children's health initiative and the Cal/EPA portion of the biomonitoring program. The main argument against the Governor's proposal is that the science performed in OEHHA should be independent of policy decisions made by the other boards and departments of Cal/EPA. Further, in the governor's proposal, many of OEHHA's programs would be dropped entirely (e.g. the Public Health Goals for drinking water contaminants).
Speakers in support of OEHHA included:
On June 11, 2009 the second hearing for the Budget Conference committee was convened. OEHHA's item number was 3980 on the Agenda and included the recommendation from the Senate Environmental Quality Committee (below) to keep OEHHA intact and add risk assessment and hazard evaluation functions from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. When OEHHA's item came up, Assemblymember Nielsen requested more time to review the proposal. The committee decided to postpone the discussion and action of the OEHHA item, but did not say when the committee would revisit the OEHHA budget proposal.
On June 15, 2009 the Budget Conference Committee voted 6-4 along party lines to approve funding OEHHA's entire budget with fee- and penalty-based special funds. The conference committee's plan will be considered by the full Assembly and Senate as part of the budget package. The final ruling on OEHHA will not be available until after the budget is passed by the state legislature and signed by the Governor. As of June 25, 2009, it does not appear that the Democratic budget plan will be passed.
On June 10, 2009, The Senate Environmental Quality Committee voted to recommend that OEHHA be kept intact and expanded with the addition of California Department Pesticide Regulation's risk assessment activities, California Department of Toxic Substances Control's hazard evaluation functions, and lead roles in the children's health initiative and the Cal/EPA portion of the biomonitoring program. The recommendation will be forwarded to the Budget Conference Committee.
Public testimony and discussion on behalf of OEHHA continued for over an hour and included 16 people who spoke in favor of keeping OEHHA intact. Two others spoke in opposition to transferring Department Pesticide Regulation's risk assessment activities to OEHHA, but neither of them commented on the larger issue of OEHHA's future. The vote was 3-2. Senator Ashburn voted against the expansion recommendation but also said, "The expertise that resides in OEHHA ought not to be dissipated throughout state government as the Governor proposes."
Speakers in support of OEHHA included:
Speakers against expansion of OEHHA:
OEHHA's vision is to be California's leading scientific organization for evaluating risks to human and ecological health. OEHHA's goals as a governmental agency include:
OEHHA assesses the risk of environmental chemicals based on health considerations alone. In contrast, risk managers consider economic and technical feasibility as factors in their decisions. This separation is essential to prevent undue political influence on the evaluation of health risks. These factors are and should remain explicitly excluded from the assessment of risk. OEHHA plays a critical and unique role that allows for the separation of risk assessment and hazard evaluation from risk management with primary goal of protecting public health and the environment.
OEHHA' most recognizable contributions to public and environmental health are:
OEHHA's work products cover a variety of environmental media. Traditionally OEHHA has focused on four primary areas:
In recent years OEHHA has taken on new mandates to address emerging environmental issues of particular concern to the California public:
OEHHA has three main divisions:
The Scientific Affairs division is composed of four scientific branches that correspond to the scientific duties:
State agency users of information on issues of environmental and public health include:
OEHHA was established in its current form by Governor Pete Wilson on July 17, 1991 with the creation of Cal/EPA.OEHHA originated in the 1950s for air epidemiology in the Department of Public Health and developed over time with increased public awareness of the environment. OEHHA is the smallest of the six boards, departments and offices within Cal/EPA. OEHHA has no regulatory authority but remains the risk assessment and scientific arm of Cal/EPA and provides health-protective scientific guidance for Cal/EPA. Additionally, OEHHA is the lead agency for Proposition 65 implementation, a ballot measure approved in 1986, titled The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. The highly experienced team of experts is well respected in the scientific community and has been built up over more than twenty years. The quality and depth of OEHHA's commitment to public health, the environment and sound science is illustrated by the scientific quality of the risk assessments produced.
OEHHA is headquartered in the Cal/EPA building in Sacramento and has an office in the Oakland Elihu Harris State Building. Before the state building was built, the Oakland office used to be located across from the University of California, Berkeley; OEHHA has maintained academic ties with this institution.
OEHHA's scientific responsibilities are fulfilled by a highly educated and trained professional staff of about 120 individuals. The staff include toxicologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians and physicians; many have international reputations in their scientific fields. In fiscal year 2007–2008 OEHHA was budgeted for approximately $17.5 millionor 1/500th of 1% the state General Fund; $8 million is from the general fund.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is a federal public health agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The agency focuses on minimizing human health risks associated with exposure to hazardous substances. It works closely with other federal, state, and local agencies; tribal governments; local communities; and healthcare providers. Its mission is to "Serve the public through responsive public health actions to promote healthy and safe environments and prevent harmful exposures." ATSDR was created as an advisory, nonregulatory agency by the Superfund legislation and was formally organized in 1985.
Superfund is a United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. Sites managed under this program are referred to as "Superfund" sites. It was established as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). It authorizes federal natural resource agencies, primarily the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states and Native American tribes to recover natural resource damages caused by hazardous substances, though most states have and most often use their own versions of CERCLA. CERCLA created the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The EPA may identify parties responsible for hazardous substances releases to the environment (polluters) and either compel them to clean up the sites, or it may undertake the cleanup on its own using the Superfund and costs recovered from polluters by referring to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Lindane, also known as gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (γ-HCH), gammaxene, Gammallin and sometimes incorrectly called benzene hexachloride (BHC), is an organochlorine chemical and an isomer of hexachlorocyclohexane that has been used both as an agricultural insecticide and as a pharmaceutical treatment for lice and scabies.
Proposition 65 is a California law passed by direct voter initiative in 1986 by a 63%–37% vote. Its goals are to protect drinking water sources from toxic substances that cause cancer and birth defects and to reduce or eliminate exposures to those chemicals generally, such as consumer products, by requiring warnings in advance of those exposures.
Malathion is an organophosphate insecticide which acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. In the USSR, it was known as carbophos, in New Zealand and Australia as maldison and in South Africa as mercaptothion.
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is a United States law, passed by the United States Congress in 1976 and administered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, that regulates the introduction of new or already existing chemicals. When the TSCA was put into place, all existing chemicals were considered to be safe for use and subsequently grandfathered in. Its three main objectives are to assess and regulate new commercial chemicals before they enter the market, to regulate chemicals already existing in 1976 that posed an "unreasonable risk to health or to the environment", as for example PCBs, lead, mercury and radon, and to regulate these chemicals' distribution and use.
Chloropicrin, also known as PS and nitrochloroform, is a chemical compound currently used as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, fungicide, herbicide, insecticide, and nematicide. Its chemical structural formula is Cl3CNO2.
The New River flows north from near Cerro Prieto, through the city of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, into the United States through the city of Calexico, California, towards the Salton Sea. The river channel has existed since pre-historic times. However, the river as known today formed from a levee failure and massive flooding that re-created the Salton Sea.
Endosulfan is an off-patent organochlorine insecticide and acaricide that is being phased out globally. The two isomers, endo and exo, are known popularly as I and II. Endosulfan sulfate is a product of oxidation containing one extra O atom attached to the S atom. Endosulfan became a highly controversial agrichemical due to its acute toxicity, potential for bioaccumulation, and role as an endocrine disruptor. Because of its threats to human health and the environment, a global ban on the manufacture and use of endosulfan was negotiated under the Stockholm Convention in April 2011. The ban has taken effect in mid-2012, with certain uses exempted for five additional years. More than 80 countries, including the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, several West African nations, the United States, Brazil, and Canada had already banned it or announced phase-outs by the time the Stockholm Convention ban was agreed upon. It is still used extensively in India, China despite laws banning it, and few other countries. It is produced by Makhteshim Agan and several manufacturers in India and China. Although, the Supreme Court had, by an order dated 13.05.2011, put a ban on the production and sale of endosulfan in India till further orders.
The light brown apple moth is a leafroller moth belonging to the lepidopteran family Tortricidae. The moth was confirmed to be present in mainland United States in 2007, principally along the West Coast. The State of California and the US Department of Agriculture quickly imposed quarantine measures and decided to use aerial spraying of cities with pesticides to try to eradicate the moth. This led to substantial public controversy and claims of adverse health effects. Aerial spraying was discontinued in 2008. Trapping, monitoring, and inspection efforts were reduced or eliminated in 2012 due to budget problems.
Clothianidin is an insecticide developed by Takeda Chemical Industries and Bayer AG. Similar to thiamethoxam and imidacloprid, it is a neonicotinoid. Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that are chemically similar to nicotine, which has been used as a pesticide since the late 1700s. Clothianidin and other neonicotinoids act on the central nervous system of insects as an agonist of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that stimulates nAChR, targeting the same receptor site (AChR) and activating post-synaptic acetylcholine receptors but not inhibiting AChE. Clothianidin and other neonicotinoids were developed to last longer than nicotine, which is more toxic and which breaks down too quickly in the environment. However, studies published in 2012 show that neonicotinoid dust released at planting time may persist in nearby fields for several years and be taken up into non-target plants, which are then foraged by bees and other insects.
In analytical chemistry, biomonitoring is the measurement of the body burden of toxic chemical compounds, elements, or their metabolites, in biological substances. Often, these measurements are done in blood and urine.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation, also known as DPR or CDPR, is one of six boards and departments of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA).
The Kettleman Hills Hazardous Waste Facility is a large hazardous waste and municipal solid waste disposal facility, operated by Waste Management, Inc.. The landfill is located at, 3.5 mi (5.6 km) southwest of Kettleman City on State Route 41 in the western San Joaquin Valley, Kings County, California.
From 1952 to 1966, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) dumped about 370 million gallons of chromium-tainted wastewater into unlined wastewater spreading ponds around the town of Hinkley, California, located in the Mojave Desert.
Pesticide regulation in the United States is primarily a responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Stoker Company is a producer and applier of pesticides and a crop dusting loading facility, located in Imperial County, California, approximately 25 miles from the Mexican border. It is currently listed as a Superfund site because pesticides developed and used there are considered a human health hazard due to long-term exposure that may cause adverse health effects. Beginning in 1966, operations have caused on-site and off-site pesticide contamination to surface soil, water, and air.
The Waste Disposal Inc. Superfund site is an oil-related contaminated site in the highly industrialized city of Santa Fe Springs in Los Angeles County, California. It is approximately 38 acres (15 ha), with St Paul's high school immediately adjacent to the northeast corner of the site. Approximately 15,000 residents of Santa Fe Springs obtain drinking water from wells within three miles (4.8 km) of the site.
The Orange Valley Regional Groundwater Superfund site is a group of wells in Orange and West Orange, two municipalities in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. The groundwater in the public wells are contaminated with the hazardous chemicals of Trichloroethylene (TCE), Dichloroethene (DCE), Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethene), 1,1-Dichloroethene (1,1-DCE), and 1,2-Dichloroethene (1,2-DCE). These chemicals pose a huge risk to the towns nearby population, as the wells are a source of public drinking water. In March 2012, the site was added to the National Priorities List (NPL) of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site list.