What is Proposition 65?
In 1986, California voters approved Proposition 65, an initiative to address their growing concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals. That initiative is officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. The law requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity, and for businesses with 10 or more employees to provide warnings when they knowingly and intentionally cause significant exposures to listed chemicals.
This list currently includes more than 850 chemicals. Proposition 65 does not ban or restrict the sale of chemicals on the list. The warnings are intended to help Californians make informed decisions about their exposures to these chemicals from the products they use and the places they go.
The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) administers the Proposition 65 program.
What are the most significant changes to the Proposition 65 warnings for consumer products?
Since the original warning requirements took effect in 1988, most Proposition 65 warnings simply state that a chemical is present that causes cancer or reproductive harm, but they do not identify the chemical or provide specific information about how a person may be exposed or ways to reduce or eliminate exposure to it.
New OEHHA regulations, adopted in August 2016 and that will take full effect in August 2018, change the safe harbor warnings which are deemed to comply with the law in several important ways. For example, the new warnings for consumer products will say the product “can expose you to” a Proposition 65 chemical rather than saying the product “contains” the chemical. They will also include:
- The name of at least one listed chemical that prompted the warning
- The internet address for OEHHA’s new Proposition 65 warnings website, which includes additional information on the health effects of listed chemicals and ways to reduce or eliminate exposure to them
- A triangular yellow warning symbol on most warnings
How do the new warnings compare to current warnings?
A typical current Proposition 65 warning states, “WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer.”
A new 2018 sample warning would look like this: