August 30th, 2018 is the official day that new Prop 65 regulations will take effect. Originally enacted in 1986 as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, Proposition 65 works to inform those in California of potentially hazardous chemicals present in products or areas. There are a wide variety of chemicals (both naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals) that require businesses to post or label Prop 65 sign, these include additives or ingredients in household cleaners, pesticides, food, drugs, dyes, or solvents.
Prop 65 requires businesses to post signs that usually contain a variation of “WARNING: This area/product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” The wording can be varied, but it must clearly communicate that the present chemical is known to the state to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. This language uses broader language compared to the newer regulations. Prop 65 signs or labels can be placed directly on products, posted in workplaces or locations, or could even be published warnings in a newspaper.
What are the newest Proposition 65 regulations and who do they apply to?
Some of the newest hallmarks of Prop 65 include new warnings, a shift of burden, and more specific internet and catalog safe harbor requirements. Originally passed in August of 2016, the new regulations will officially take effect on August 30th of this year. Businesses are now required to issue warnings that specify at least one of the listed chemicals in the area or product. The warnings that offer more explanation and a web address for more information aligns with the regulation’s goal to accurately inform people of dangers and aiding in making healthy decisions.
The government of California offers exemption of Prop 65 in just a few instances, primarily covering businesses with fewer than 10 employees and government agencies. Other businesses that are exempt from the warnings is “if the exposures they cause are so low as to create no significant risk of can or are significantly below levels observed to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm”.
Common places that must meet compliance with Proposition 65 are amusement parks, dental offices, designated smoking areas, enclosed parking facilities, hotels, restaurants, service stations, and vehicle repair facilities. As far as products go, Prop 65 warning labels should be on alcoholic beverages, diesel engines, food, furniture products, vehicles, and wood dust, just to name a few. For a complete list of chemicals, please visit the list provided by the California government.
Who enforces Proposition 65 regulations and what are the consequences?
There are different agencies for administering Proposition 65 and for enforcing the regulations. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, a division of the California Environmental Protection Agency, will usually determine whether chemicals meet both the legal and scientific requirements to garner a place on the Prop 65 list.
As for enforcement, those who have that power include the California Attorney General’s Office as well as district attorneys and city attorneys. Furthermore, individuals acting in the public interest have the power to file a lawsuit against a business who may be in violation as a means of enforcement. If a business is found to be violation Proposition 65 by failing to provide the appropriate warnings, they are at risk of incurring fines as steep as $2500 per day.
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