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Isophorone Latest Chemical To Watch For Litigation Risk
Wednesday, August 3, 2022

As our society becomes increasingly aware of potential hazards in the products that we as a collective encounter on a regular basis, legal action is sure to follow. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) currently has several substances slated to be classified in their Monographs on the Identification of Carcinogenic Hazards to Humans. Among these is isophorone, an agent used in a variety of consumer and commercial products. As of now, it appears that WHO’s IARC will classify isophorone as a possible human carcinogen. The result of this classification is likely to provide a catalyst for litigation similar to what we have seen in recent years with glyphosate.

What is Isophorone?

Isophorone is a clear and colorless liquid that is produced during the process in which a reactant is converted to a product. It can be used to assist in the dissolving process of other chemicals, it can also be used to create other chemicals.

How will Isophorone be Classified?

In 1992 the EPA updated their designation of isophorone as a Class C chemical, indicating that it was a possible human carcinogen under the particular parameters used during that period of time. Particular compounds within this category are “[a]gents with limited animal evidence and little or no human data.” Currently, isophorone is slated to be classified in Group 2B by the WHO’s IARC. This would mean that it would officially be considered as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

How will this Classification Impact Business?

This impending IARC classification has already spurned related state legislation, which will usher in a variety of litigative matters regarding this substance – a situation that harkens back to the recent glyphosate-related Monsanto Roundup lawsuits that yielded a collection of settlements that have totaled $11,000,000,000 to date. In the present, isophorone, and chemically similar compounds, are found in the following products:

  • Paint;

  • Printing inks;

  • Lacquers;

  • Adhesives;

  • Sunscreens;

  • Solvents; and,

  • Various product coatings.

It has also been detected in the air and groundwater due to discharge from its use in related products and manufacturing industries.

New York Proposes Isophorone Ban

In 2021, a bill was proposed in the State Senate of New York to prohibit, in part, the manufacturing, processing or distribution of products, or parts of such, containing isophorone. The wide breadth of related amendments to the environmental law of the state would specifically allow for exemption in that isophorone could be used in the manufacture, process, or distribution of such products that “cannot reasonably be expected to come into use by an individual under the age of eighteen.” Another exemption within the proposed legislation is to allow the transport of products containing isophorone, and/or the chemical itself, through state for intended delivery in another state or country. The violation of these provisions would constitute a class A misdemeanor, which carries a potential sentence of a maximum of one year in jail or three years of probation, and, additionally, a fine of up to $1,000 or double the amount of the financial gain to an induvial or entity from the commission of this crime. As of the beginning of 2022, the bill was referred to the New York Senatorial Committee for Environmental Conservation. No further action has been taken at this point.

How Can Businesses Manage Risk?

Business can manage risk by becoming aware of any products that contain isophorone as well as any products they may ship and/or receive containing such – especially if there are consumer goods containing this compound being sold to the public. To navigate the complexities of classification and regulation regarding isophorone, experts should be consulted to ensure adherence to related criteria, ongoing compliance requirements, and to preempt litigation.

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