Santa Ana Council Backs Alcohol Warning Labels

Times Staff Writer

After watching an alarming slide presentation on alcohol-related birth defects, the Santa Ana City Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution supporting warning labels and signs advising pregnant women of the dangers of drinking.

The resolution was intended as a message for Gov. George Deukmejian and the State Health and Welfare Agency, who, in accordance with the 1986 anti-toxics initiative, must decide what type of warning should be required.

Alcohol was placed on the state toxic materials list last year by a science panel charged with deciding what chemicals are covered by the initiative.

John Stuart, co-chairman of an Orange-based task force on alcohol-related birth defects, told the council that alcohol is the primary cause of retardation among infants in the United States and the second-highest cause of birth defects.

"We don't know how much alcohol will cause alcohol-related birth defects or fetal alcohol syndrome," said Stuart, a self-described recovering alcoholic and uncle of three children born with such afflictions. "But we do know that if you don't drink during pregnancy, this will not exist."

The task force wants the state to require both kinds of warnings: labeled bottles and cans, and posted signs wherever alcohol is sold, Chairman Joyce Gregg said. But the "enormous pressure" of the liquor industry may result in the selection of only one type of warning, she said, adding that a decision is imminent.

If the state requires labels only, the task force will ask cities and counties to pass their own laws requiring warning signs, Gregg said. Los Angeles and San Diego counties and several cities including Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Monica have already adopted such ordinances. However, neither Orange County nor any of its communities has done so, Stuart said.

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