California’s Proposition 65, the “California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986,” requires businesses to provide notification to customers about significant amounts of chemicals in the products they purchase.
The purpose of this law is to provide consumers the opportunity to make informed decisions about protecting themselves from exposure to these chemicals.
Proposition 65 is administered by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA). Each year, the state provides a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm that are subject to Proposition 65. This list (the “Prop 65 list”) may be located at http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65/prop65_list/Newlist.html. The list is extensive and contains a variety of chemicals, including dyes, solvents, and compounds.
Proposition 65 requires business to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning before “knowingly and intentionally” exposing anyone to a listed chemical. “Knowingly” means awareness that the chemical is present. “Intentionally” means intending to sell a product or perform some other act, with the requisite knowledge. This warning can be given by a variety of means, including labeling consumer products. Once a chemical is listed, businesses have 12 months to comply with warning requirements. Therefore, based on your knowledge of business operations and chemicals used, you should review the Prop 65 list and determine which chemicals would likely be involved.
To assist businesses in determining whether a warning is necessary, OEHHA has developed safe harbor numbers. A business has “safe harbor” from Proposition 65 warning requirements or discharge prohibitions if exposure to a chemical occurs at or below these levels. These safe harbor numbers consist of no significant risk levels for chemicals listed as causing cancer and maximum allowable dose levels for chemicals listed as causing birth defects or other reproductive harm. OEHHA has established safe harbor numbers for nearly 300 chemicals to date and continues to develop safe harbor numbers for listed chemicals.
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. Lawsuits have been filed by the Attorney General’s Office, district attorneys, consumer advocacy groups, and private citizens and law firms. Penalties for violating Proposition 65 by failing to provide notices can be as high as $2,500 per violation per day.
Safe Harbor Limits for Jewelry and Watches: