What is California Proposition 65?

California Proposition 65 (commonly referred to as Prop 65) is a law that requires California businesses and companies conducting business in California to display warning labels on products to inform Californians about exposure to specific chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

These chemicals can be present in household or workplace products, as well as in products that release the chemicals into the environment. The law also restricts California businesses from knowingly contaminating drinking water sources with significant amounts of said chemicals.

The official name of Proposition 65 is the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. The law, enacted as a California state ballot initiative in November of 1986, is administered by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). Its purpose is to protect the public health of Californians by reducing exposure to harmful chemicals and helping consumers make informed purchasing decisions.

Prop 65 chemical list

All chemicals within the scope of Prop 65 are included in the Proposition 65 chemical list, managed, and annually published by the California OEHHA. First published in 1987, a year after the law was passed, the list now contains over 900 chemicals.

The Prop 65 list includes both naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals that are present in food, drugs, household products, dyes, solvents, and pesticide additives or ingredients. Some of the chemicals are used in construction or manufacturing, while others are byproducts of chemical processes.

There are four ways that chemicals can be added to the Proposition 65 list – learn more here.

Prop 65 warning label requirements

California businesses or companies conducting business in California must provide a “clear and reasonable” warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing individuals to any of the chemicals included on the Prop 65 list. The warning can take several forms, including a label on a consumer product, a sign in a workplace, or a posted notice in a rental housing unit.

Prop 65 warning labels for consumer products must contain the following:

  • The name of at least one listed chemical
  • The URL of OEHHA’s Proposition 65 warnings website
  • Text that is the same size as other consumer information on the package, not to be smaller than 6-point type
  • A triangular yellow warning symbol with a bold outline and a black exclamation point in the center
  • Following the triangular warning symbol, the word WARNING in capital letters and bold print in the same size as the warning symbol
Warnings must be provided one year after a new chemical is added to the Prop 65 list. Regarding the prohibited discharge of listed chemicals into drinking water sources, businesses have 20 months from when a new chemical is listed to comply.

Prop 65 safe harbor levels

Prop 65 safe harbor levels are levels of certain listed chemicals that the California OEHHA has considered acceptable to be present in a product without a label or in drinking water sources. Currently, there are over 300 listed chemicals with safe harbor levels and OEHHA is continuing to develop more.

Safe harbor levels were developed to help businesses determine if they must comply with Prop 65. The levels consist of two categories: No Significant Risk Levels (for listed cancer-causing chemicals) and Maximum Allowable Dose Levels (for chemicals listed as causing birth defects or other reproductive harm). Businesses are exempt if exposure to a chemical occurs at or below the safe harbor levels.

Based on business operations and chemical usage, businesses can review the Prop 65 list to determine if their operations or products could expose Californians to any listed chemicals. If the exposure level is found to be greater than the safe harbor levels, businesses must provide a warning. The same process applies to drinking water sources – if exposure is beyond the safe harbor levels, businesses are prohibited from discharging listed chemicals into drinking water sources.

Proposition 65 exemptions

Businesses with less than 10 employees and government agencies are exempt from Proposition 65 requirements. Businesses are also exempt if the levels of listed chemicals in their products pose no significant risk of cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm.

Prop 65 enforcement & violation penalties

Prop 65 is enforced by the California Attorney General’s Office, but it can also be enforced by district attorneys or city attorneys (for cities with populations exceeding 750,000). Additionally, private citizens can enforce the law by filing a lawsuit against a business alleged to be in violation.

Penalties for businesses violating Prop 65 can be as high as $2,500 for each violation per day.

Source Intelligence Prop 65 compliance solution

Get the product information you need to comply with Prop 65 with the Source Intelligence Prop 65 Compliance solution. Our solution allows your suppliers to provide any available product information, including Full Materials Declarations (FMDs), safety data sheets, lab test reports, and more. Our industry-leading platform then collects supplier information and generates real-time reports on your Prop 65 status. Source Intelligence’s approach minimizes the burden of reporting on your suppliers, which eases supply chain communication and allows you to get accurate data in a timely manner.


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