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What is Prop 65?

Proposition 65 is a law that was enacted in 1986 that requires businesses to provide warnings to the residents in the state of California about potential significant exposures to certain chemicals that have been known to cause certain types of cancers, birth defects, or cause reproductive harm. The full name of the law is the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. It is often called Proposition 65, or Prop 65 for short. The idea of the law is to make sure Californians can make informed decisions about the products they purchase and if the product could potentially contain one of the 900 or more chemicals identified in the published list of chemicals that have been connected to cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm. The law not only requires businesses to inform consumers about products that contain these chemicals, but it requires businesses to inform employees about these chemicals being present in the workplace, and for homebuilders to inform homeowners about where these chemicals exist in their homes. 

Another component of Proposition 65 is that it strictly prohibits any business in California from knowingly discharging substantial amounts of chemicals labeled on the published list into sources of drinking water. 

The types of chemicals covered under Proposition 65 include several synthetic, as well as naturally occurring chemicals, that are used in some everyday household products. Products like pesticides, foods, drugs, dyes, solvents, and many household cleaners and detergents. Also, some of the chemicals listed may not exist directly within the product, but instead, the chemicals may be used in the manufacturing or the construction of the product. They could also be a byproduct of a chemical process that takes place during the production of the product. 

At any time, you can go online to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment website to view an up-to-date published list of all the chemicals covered under Proposition 65. Just a few examples of these chemicals include Acetochlor, Acetohydroxamic Acid, Benzotrichloride, and Polychlorinated Biphenyls. All four of these chemicals have been linked to containing some sort of cancer-causing properties. 

When a warning is issued about a product that may contain one of these harmful chemicals, a label may be printed and placed on the product packaging, or a sign may be posted and distributed at a workplace, a business, or an apartment. The warning is notifying individuals that by using a certain product or by occupying a particular space, the business is acknowledging that they may be exposing that individual to one or more of these chemicals. It is the law that the business is solely responsible to create these warnings if they believe that exposure to these chemicals is high enough to pose some sort of negative health consequence. 

Proposition 65 is administered by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment under the supervision of the California Environmental Protection Agency. The law is then enforced by the California Attorney General’s Office, and any district attorney or city attorney can enforce the law. Individuals who are acting in the best interest of the public are also allowed to enforce Proposition 65 by filing a lawsuit. If a concerned citizen becomes aware that a business is in violation of Proposition 65, they then can file a lawsuit with the office of the California Attorney’s General, a district attorney, a consumer advocacy group, or with a private law firm 

If a business is in violation of Proposition 65, the maximum penalty is a fine of up to $2,500 per violation, per day they violate the law. 

What is the impact of Prop 65 on business owners?

The most recent regulations are designed to help shift the burden of providing exposure warnings away from retail sellers and to the manufacturers and distributors of products. A manufacturer and distributor of a product that falls under Proposition 65 must either label the product themselves or must provide a written notice to the retail seller containing all the exact product information and a listing of the Prop 65 chemicals included with the product.

Existing and Updated Regulations

The existing regulations address basic exposure scenarios. There are three main exposure scenarios that the regulations address. They are consumer product exposures, environmental exposures, and occupational exposures.

  • Consumer product exposures: exposures associated with the intended use of a consumer product.
  • Environmental exposures:  exposures that are community-wide and from an industrial source, or limited exposures in a confined space. 
  • Occupational exposures: exposures to Prop 65 chemicals that exist in the workplace.

Previously the regulations only required a general warning to be placed on the package or in the affected area, however, new regulations require the warning to contain more specific information. The new warnings must now contain the identification of at least one of the listed chemicals and its risk area, cancer, birth defects, etc, and it must also say how the exposure can occur as well as provide a link to a State webpage containing additional Proposition 65 information. In addition, the warning must include the State-regulated Warning Symbol at the start of the warning sign. 

In addition to the previous three exposure scenarios, additional exposure scenarios have been added that need to comply with Proposition 65. Those exposure scenarios include alcoholic beverage exposures warnings, food and non-alcoholic beverage exposures, enclosed parking facility and engine exhaust exposures, petroleum product exposures, service station, and repair center exposures, designated smoking area exposures, and hotel exposures. 

Who should comply with Prop 65?

All entities who are responsible for creating any of the exposure scenarios outlined in the latest regulations of Proposition 65 need to comply with law or face penalties enforced by the California Attorney General’s Office. 

What happens if a business does not comply with Prop 65?

If any business is in violation of Proposition 65, the maximum penalty is a fine of up to $2,500 per violation, per day they are in violation of the law. 

Does Prop 65 apply to business-to-business sales?

Yes, Prop 65 applies to any business that contains 10 or more employees that are involved in the supply chain of any product sold in the State of California. This includes manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. 

Is Prop 65 only for California business owners?

No, Prop 65 is not only for California business owners. It is for any business that wishes to sell a product in the state of California. Meaning, if your business manufactures a product in Florida, but you want to ship the product to California for retail sale, you must then make sure you comply with all the laws and regulations covered under Proposition 65. 


If you sell products in the state of California, you should be aware of Prop 65. Consumers must be warned about chemicals that could cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. If a business fails to comply, there could be legal repercussions. When you are in the business of selling products and services, you assume a fair amount of liability. It’s critical that you abide by laws and stay compliant. While this may cost more money, failing to do so may eventually cost a lot more money. If you need inventory financing to produce higher quality or more compliant products, visit Kickfurther.

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