What is Proposition 65 for California Residents?

A Brief Explanation of Proposition 65



Proposition 65 (“Prop 65”), or “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986,” is a California right-to-know law that was passed by voters in 19861. Among other things, the law creates a requirement for companies to inform the public about the presence - even at trace levels - of certain substances in the products they sell or use. These “Prop 65-listed chemicals” are ones for which the State of California has decided that information about the chemical’s toxicity satisfies the regulatory requirements for addition to the Prop 65 list of chemicals.
Prop 65 warnings are required for chemicals that are commonly present in a wide variety of everyday products such as foods, dietary supplements, cleaners, and beauty care products as well as for substances such as pesticides, gasoline, car exhaust, and cigarette smoke. Now when traveling through California one will see warning signs and labels. These warnings are not only on product labels but also posted throughout California in establishments such as restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, stores, buildings, and parking garages.
Failing to post the warning can lead to law suits. These lawsuits are brought by the State Attorney General, district or city attorneys, or private plaintiffs. Interestingly enough the plaintiff does not need to show that anyone has been hurt in order to bring a lawsuit against a compnay that failed to display the Prop 65 warning.
When a Prop 65 warning occurs on a product, it needs to be considered in context with a consumer’s other environmental and dietary exposures to chemicals.  Keep in mind that many foods - including fruits and vegetables with important nutrition benefits - contain trace levels of the chemicals (some being organic/ naturally occuring).

Prop 65 is not a product safety law. Rather, it is a right-to-know law requiring the public to be informed when a Prop 65 listed chemical is present above a very low threshold. As the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the California agency responsible for implementing Prop 65 has noted, “A Proposition 65 warning does not necessarily mean that a product is in violation of any product-safety standards or requirements.”

People often equate the word “chemical” with synthetic hazardous substances. However, scientifically the word simply refers to any substance that has a defined molecular structure or which can be analyzed using chemistry. In this sense, every substance on the planet and all living organisms are made of chemicals.