What is Prop 65?
In 1986, environmental and public health activists convinced California voters to approve the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act — better known as Proposition 65. While Prop 65 was passed with the intention of improving public health, the law’s many flaws have imposed massive burdens on businesses without appreciably improving Californians’ health.
The law requires:
- The State of California to identify chemicals that could cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm. The state compiles these chemicals on a list–that list now contains over 800 chemicals.
- Businesses to warn consumers of any possible exposure to one of the chemicals on the list, regardless of amount or actual risk of exposure. Businesses must post signage and/or warning labels on specific products.
Proposition 65 contains a unique “citizen-suit” enforcement provision that allows trial lawyers to rake in millions of dollars from businesses who knowingly or unknowingly fail to meet all of Prop 65’s requirements.
Even manufacturers based outside of California are subject to Proposition 65’s labeling requirements if they hope to sell their products in the state.
Because Prop 65 requires warning labels or signage whenever exposure could cause more than “one excess case of cancer in 100,000 individuals exposed to the chemical over a 70-year lifetime,” there is no real way for consumers to understand their actual exposure risk.
Attempts to reform Proposition 65 have fallen well short of what’s needed to eliminate frivolous lawsuits and better educate consumers.