California Adopts Major Changes to Prop 65 Chemical Warnings

Posted on 9/13/2016 by Roger Marks

Earlier this month, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) adopted amendments to Prop 65, a state environmental and chemical safety law.

Officially called the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Prop 65 is a California state law that requires businesses to warn consumers about certain chemicals found in products that may cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. In addition, Prop 65 requires businesses to monitor and control chemical discharges to sources of drinking water.

The amendments, which are set to take effect August 30, 2018, update the requirements for Prop 65 chemical warning labels, including a re-write of Section 25601, which lays out the criteria for what constitutes a “clear and reasonable” warning.

Other critical changes in the Prop 65 amendments include:
  • Redefining key terms like “label,” “sign,” “occupational exposure,” and others
  • Adding definitions for the terms “food,” “consumer information,” “knowingly,” and more  
  • Revising criteria for determining responsibility to provide product warnings
  • Updating requirements for the content of consumer product exposure warnings
  • Changes to the current “safe harbor” warning
Major changes with respect to the content and design of warning labels include adding a yellow triangle with a black exclamation mark pictogram to the label, requiring more specific information about the chemicals present in the product, and displaying the web address for more information. 

These changes will likely require businesses in California to evaluate their current Prop 65 compliant warning labels and update the labels as necessary to comply with the amended requirements.

More About Prop 65

The list of substances covered under Prop 65 is updated annually and now includes about 900 chemicals.

In addition to requiring warning labels on consumer products, Prop 65 also requires signs be posted at workplaces, businesses, and rental properties to warn workers and citizens of possible exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Penalties for violating Prop 65 are as high as $2,500 per day, per violation. In 2015, the California Attorney General’s office reached 582 settlements with businesses for Prop 65 violations and assessed $26.2 million in penalties.

For a side-by-side comparison of the “old” and “new” text of Prop 65, click here.

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