By: Darren Dunn, Chemical Regulatory Consultant


Proposition 65 (Prop 65) is a law in California that was passed in 1986.  The aim of Proposition 65 is to protect drinking water sources and prevent exposure to chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects. The law contains two main regulations. Firstly, this Act prevents businesses from knowingly releasing Proposition 65 listed chemicals into sources of drinking water. Secondly, the regulation forbids businesses from knowingly exposing people to these dangerous chemicals without providing a clear and concise warning.


Since its passing in 1986,  Proposition 65 has caused the reformulation of many consumer products. The reformulations set out to eliminate toxic chemicals covered by Proposition 65, meaning these products would not have to bare a warning under the provisions of the Act.  A full list of chemicals considered to cause cancer and birth defects is set out by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and can be found here. Chemicals are added and removed from this list as scientific data becomes available about certain ingredients.


If a product contains a Prop 65 chemical above the registered safety limits than a warning label must be applied to the product. A typical warning is as follows:


            WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause   cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.


Legislation states that the wording of the warning can be changed if necessary, so long as it communicates what type of harm the chemicals in the product causes (cancer, birth defects, or reproductive).


Although the overall purpose of Proposition 65 is to protect consumers from hazardous chemicals, there has been controversy surrounding the regulation. In recent years, the laws regulations have been abused in such a way that it has had a negative effect on California’s economy.  The regulations include a private right of action; this means that anyone from the public, whether or not they have been harmed, can sue a business if they are not complying with the proposition.  This has lead to many small businesses, such as restaurants and coffee shops, having to pay large fines for not having Proposition 65 related signs in their restaurants.  The goal of the Act was to limit the exposure of carcinogenic ingredients, and prevent large corporations from selling harmful products, not to lay hefty fines on local restaurants. However, as of February 2013, AB 227 was passed as a way to eliminate these large fines for small businesses.  This bill allows small business owners who have received a notice of violation of the Act a 14 day grace period to reach compliance. It also requires them to pay a much smaller fine.


If you have any questions regarding Prop 65 compliance, please contact Nexreg.