If you’ve ever shopped online, bought anything from Amazon, or picked up a packaged good since 1987, you may have noticed a small warning. Something along the lines of: Warning: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Well, that is the Prop 65 Warning, and we would like to take a moment to explain a little about Prop 65.
What is Prop 65?
Essentially “Prop 65” is a California law that identifies a list of approximately 900 chemicals that the State has determined may cause cancer and/or birth defects and reproductive harm. More formally referred to as the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, this is something that California residents voted in favor of in 1986 to protect residents from potentially dangerous chemicals. In addition to identifying the list of chemicals, businesses are also held accountable for properly warning customers if their products may cause “exposures” to these chemicals, and the law gives plaintiffs’ lawyers in California the right to sue business for non-compliance.
Because Prop 65 requires warnings based on exposures, not chemical concentration, assessing whether a product actually complies with Prop 65 is a very difficult task. Additionally, the burden of proof regarding compliance is on the business, not the plaintiff trying to prove a violation. As a result, many brands and companies doing business in California have made the decision to simply add the Prop 65 warning to their products, without knowing for certain whether their products actually violate Prop 65. There are Prop 65 warnings on thousands of common products including foods, clothing, personal care products, and even many supplement products. As an example of the absurdity of Prop 65, in a recent California court decision, it was determined that coffee companies like Starbucks were required to provide cancer warnings on their coffee.
Ostensibly, warning consumers about potential dangers is a good thing; the law has the best of intentions. The problem is, it can create alarm disproportionate to the actual risk at hand.
Given the current litigious climate in California, we found ourselves in the position where we felt it was necessary to provide Prop 65 warning on our site for some products, as you have likely noticed on many other websites of products you use all the time. We provide the warnings despite the chemicals at issue being naturally occurring in our products, as a result of certain ingredients being naturally grown in the earth, which – you guessed it – has these chemicals in the soil.
When considering a Prop 65 warning, it is important to understand that a Prop 65 warning does not mean a product is in violation of any product/safety standards or requirements. In fact, the California government has clarified that “the fact that a product bears Proposition 65 warnings does not mean by itself that the product is un safe.” The government also explained, “You could think of Proposition 65 more as a ‘right to know’ law than a pure product safety law. For more information see here.