California Proposition 65

What is California Proposition 65?

Proposition 65 ("Prop 65") is a California law that requires a notice to be placed on products so that California customers will be aware of certain substances that they may be exposed to. Prop 65 requires the following warning when certain substances are present in a particular product:

WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm.

Occasionally, you may see this warning on consumer products which include food, dietary supplements and cosmetics. However, this warning does not necessarily mean that the product is not fit for use or consumption.

Are the warnings only required to appear on products sold in California?

Yes. Prop 65 only applies to products that are sold in the state of California or products from other states that are bought by consumers residing in California. Often, consumers living in states outside California may see the warning on products they purchase. This occurs because a company (outside California) is unable to ensure that a product they sold, for example, to a business in Maryland, doesn't end up being sold later to someone in California.

Do federal regulations exist that govern substances in a similar manner as Prop 65?

Yes. Although the federal government has regulations regarding permissible amounts of certain substances, Prop 65 standards are more stringent and in some cases, controversial. For example, the presence of lead, a common heavy metal in the environment, would require a Prop 65 warning if the amount per serving is 0.5 micrograms (μg) or higher. In contrast, the U.S. Pharmacopeia requires a raw material (for dietary supplements) to be rejected if the amount of lead it contains exceeds 10 μg per daily serving. Toxicologists disagree about the inclusion of certain "ceiling" amounts on the Prop 65 list that would require a statement.

Since 0.5 ug of lead per day is very low, shouldn't all products with 0.5 μg or higher carry the warning?

Not necessarily. Even if a product contains 0.5 μg lead or higher (per serving), it may still be sold in California as long as it contains the Prop 65 warning on its label. Some companies who may be currently unaware of the Prop 65 requirement (especially out-of-state companies) but who are selling products to residents in California (with 0.5 μg or higher/serving), may have no warning on their labels because they are unaware of the Prop 65 requirement. In addition, in an unusual ruling, a company with fewer than 10 employees is exempt from the Prop 65 regulations, and therefore, is not required to place the warning on their products (even if it contains 0.5 μg or higher).

Should I expect the warning to appear in other areas?

Many California residents have now become used to seeing the ubiquitous Prop 65 warning on so many products nearly everywhere they go. The warning appears in coffee shops at the condiment counter, in grocery stores at the fish counter, inside parking lots and even at the entrance of amusement parks.

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