Prop 65 Amendments
California Proposition 65 is responsible for the chemical warnings you see while shopping.
Proposition 65, also known as California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, was adopted into law in November 1986 after 63 percent of voters expressed support in a direct initiative vote. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is responsible for the administration of Prop 65 and the chemical disclosures that you may see today while shopping for clothing or furniture.
The intent of Prop 65 was to address public concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals in water and consumer products. Thus, OEHHA published a list of chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. This list has been updated once a year since 1987 and currently includes around 900 different substances, ranging from pesticides and additives to dyes and food. Once a new chemical is added to the list, businesses have a year from the date of the addition to provide warnings. The OEHHA website offers search filters that make looking for a chemical easier based on toxicity and type. Prop 65 requires that California businesses include warnings on all products that can expose consumers to any of the chemicals on the OEHHA list. The original 1986 proposition established that warnings must be “clear and reasonable,” so most businesses have utilized a consistent and vague disclosure message for products under the list. The only businesses exempt from Prop 65 are ones with less than ten (10) employees or whose products fall under safe harbor levels. Safe harbor indicates that a product that discharges a potentially harmful chemical exposes such low levels that there is no significant risk of cancer or reproductive damage. OEHHA has developed safe harbor numbers for over 300 chemicals that businesses should review before attaching any warnings.
OEHHA has changed Prop 65 warning regulations to inform consumers better in the last decade. In 2016, OEHHA created a new warning format for businesses’ compliance. This label format includes the name of at least one chemical, a triangular yellow warning symbol, and the website address to OEHHA’s Prop 65 website that can provide additional information. OEHHA’s most recent proposal for 2021 increases the label size for short-form warnings to 12 inches, allows short-form warnings from product labels to be used online, and modifies signal wording to reference California law. These amendments went into effect on January 21st and are likely to become operative as early as 2023.
To stay updated on OEHHA regulations, Prop 65’s list of chemicals, or any compliance changes, please refer to the OEHHA website. If you are a business looking for sample warnings or Prop 65 resources, review California’s Proposition 65 website. To learn more about Prop 65’s background, see Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.