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OEHHA Intends to List β-Myrcene and Pulegone as Cancer Causing

Posted: February 7, 2014

The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) intends to list the chemicals β-myrcene and pulegone (CAS# 89-82-7) as known to the state of California to cause cancer under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

Pulegone is a natural constituent of various plants, including mint and other herbs, and of their essential oils. In the notice of intent, the OEHHA said pulegone meets the requirements for listing as known to the state to cause cancer for purposes of Proposition 65 under the Labor Code listing mechanism. The law requires that certain substances identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) be listed as known to cause cancer under Proposition 65.

IARC has published on its website a list entitled “Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs, Volume 1-108" (IARC, 2013). IARC concludes that pulegone is classified in Group 2B (the agent is “possibly carcinogenic to humans”). IARC concluded that there is “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals” for pulegone, citing a paper by Grosse et al. in 2013.

OEHHA is allowing for comment as to whether the chemical identified above meets the requirements for listing as causing cancer specified in Health and Safety Code section 25249.8(a) and Labor Code sections 6382(b)(1) or 6382(d) or both. Because this is a ministerial listing, comments should be limited to whether IARC has identified the specific chemical or substance as a known or potential human or animal carcinogen. Under this listing mechanism, OEHHA cannot consider scientific arguments concerning the weight or quality of the evidence considered by IARC when it identified this chemical and will not respond to such comments if they are submitted. OEHHA must receive comments by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 10, 2014.

β-myrcene, used as a flavoring agent in food and beverages, and as a fragrance in cosmetics, soaps, and detergents, also meets the criteria for listing as known to the state of California to cause cancer under Proposition 65, OEHHA said, based on findings of the National Toxicology Program in 2010.

OEHHA is relying on the NTP’s discussion of data and conclusions in the report that β-myrcene causes cancer. In 2010, the NTP published a report on β myrcene, entitled “Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of β-Myrcene (CAS# 123-35-3) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Gavage Studies." According to the conclusion section of the report’s summary (page 5), “We conclude that β-myrcene caused kidney cancers in male rats and liver cancer in male mice…” the report said.

OEHHA is requesting comments as to whether β-myrcene meets the criteria set forth in the Proposition 65 regulations for authoritative bodies listings. In order to be considered, OEHHA must receive comments by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 10, 2014.

Comments transmitted by email should be addressed to P65Public.Comments@oehha.ca.gov with “NOIL-beta-myrcene” in the subject line.

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