Proposition 65 was designed to protect the state’s water sources and require businesses to inform consumers about potential exposure to harmful toxins.

The law requires that California’s governor publish an annual list of chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects. Businesses are required to place a Prop. 65 warning on products that contain any of these toxins. The warning, however, does not necessarily imply that a product violates safety standards or requirements. Some businesses are exempt from Prop. 65, such as those with fewer than 10 employees, as well as governmental agencies and public water systems.

What types of chemicals are on the Proposition 65 list?

The list contains a wide range of naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. These chemicals include additives or ingredients in pesticides, common household products, food, drugs, dyes, or solvents. Listed chemicals may also be used in manufacturing and construction, or they may be byproducts of chemical processes, such as motor vehicle exhaust.  Learn how chemicals are added to the list.

The warning signs have become ubiquitous around California, displayed everywhere from gas stations to apartment complexes to water bottles. The nearly a thousand chemicals on the list can be found in common household products, manufacturing and construction or motor vehicle exhaust.

Opponents of the regulation feel many small businesses face unfair lawsuits as a result of the law. To counteract that, Prop. 65 was amended in 2013 to outline a specific protocol for how citizens can file complaints against companies.

California Gov. Jerry Brown also announced in 2013 that he planned to offer additional reforms to the regulation. In 2017, he signed AB 1583, which requires the attorney general to provide a letter to both the enforcer and alleged violator when a lawsuit is deemed merit-less or has factual basis.

Businesses who defy Prop. 65 can face fines up to 2,500 per violation per day.

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