Have you ever seen those little blue warning placards that say, “WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm”? These warning signs exist because of Proposition 65 (formally known as “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986”). Prop 65 was designed to protect drinking water sources from toxic substances.
What is Prop 65?
The act requires manufacturers to stop discarding certain chemicals and take adequate measures to warn the public about chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The Governor of California publishes an annual list of chemicals that the state considers to be carcinogens or reproductive toxins. You can find a list of the current Prop 65 chemicals here.
While Proposition 65 prohibits certain chemicals from being released, who is responsible for upholding the law? The answer is many people. Prop 65 can be enforced by the California Attorney General, local district attorneys and city attorneys, and even private persons on behalf of the state. What is the benefit of catching a person or business who has violated Prop 65? You get to save the environment and may even receive monetary compensation!
So, what about those warning signs? Remember, Prop 65 doesn’t just prohibit the release of certain chemicals. Penalties also arise from the failure to warn people about the possibilities of harmful chemicals. The wording can be changed as necessary, so long as the warning communicates the message; the chemical in question is known to the state to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm. All businesses who use a listed chemical(s) must post a warning sign.
In order to be safe, some manufacturer in the state post notices on their premises, to warn people of the chemical present. Oftentimes, businesses that don’t use restricted chemicals post warning signs because of the possibility of hazardous chemicals. Since there is no penalty for posting an unnecessary warning sign, it would seem to be good practice to put one up to protect oneself from litigation. I don’t know about you, but I have started looking for those signs everywhere I go.
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