What Is Proposition 65?
In 1986, California voters approved an initiative to address their growing concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals. That initiative became the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known by its original name of Proposition 65. Proposition 65 requires the State to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. This list, which must be updated at least once a year, has grown to include approximately 800 chemicals since it was first published in 1987. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) administers the Proposition 65 program. OEHHA, which is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA), also evaluates all currently available scientific information on substances considered for placement on the Proposition 65 list.
Requirements for companies conducting business in California
Proposition 65 requires businesses to notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals in the products they purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment. By providing this information, Proposition 65 enables Californians to make informed decisions about protecting themselves from exposure to these chemicals. Proposition 65 also prohibits California businesses from knowingly discharging significant amounts of listed chemicals into sources of drinking water.
California businesses with less than 10 employees along with government agencies are exempt from the Proposition 65 warning requirements. Businesses other than these are required to indicate or provide a "clear and reasonable warning, before knowingly and/or intentionally exposing any individuals to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity." These chemicals are listed in the Proposition 65 chemical list. Once a chemical becomes listed, businesses have twelve months to comply with the specified warning requirements. The warning can be applied in several ways, including:
- Labeling the consumer products
- Posting signs at the workplace
- Distributing notices
Safe Harbor Level
OEHHA develops numerical guidance levels identified as Safe Harbor Levels. The numerical guidance levels are an effort to assist businesses in determining if they may have "safe harbor" from Proposition 65 warning requirements and discharge prohibitions. Safe Harbor Levels have been established for many of the chemicals listed under Proposition 65. They include No Significant Risk Levels (NSRLs) for cancer-causing chemicals and Maximum Allowable Dose Levels (MADLs) for chemicals that cause reproductive toxicity. If exposure to a chemical occurs, or if discharges into drinking water sources are at or below the safe harbor level, they are exempt from the Proposition 65 warning requirements.
Proposition 65 Enforcement
The California Attorney General's Office enforces Proposition 65. Any district attorney or city attorney (for cities whose population exceeds 750,000) may also enforce Proposition 65. In addition, any individual acting in the public interest may enforce Proposition 65 by filing a lawsuit against a business alleged to be in violation of this law.
Additional Proposition 65 information
For general information on Proposition 65 chemicals, contact OEHHA's Proposition 65 program at (916) 445-6900 or visit http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65.html.
For enforcement reference information, contact the California Attorney General's Office at (510) 622-2160 or visit http://ag.ca.gov/prop65/.
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