Your Primer for Prop 65 Labeling Requirements

By now, you must have heard about many laws governing the manufacture and sales of various products. Some of these laws are from the federal government, while others vary from state to state.


What are Prop 65 labeling requirements? How does this affect you?


Well, for one thing, eCommerce giant Amazon now no longer shields sellers, adding this to Amazon’s T&Cs. This means that risks are especially substantial. Sellers’ products can be removed and they need to reimburse Amazon for any fines if they are found not to be compliant.


What is Prop 65?

Proposition 65 is the same as the popular “Prop 65.” It is a Californian law requiring companies to warn consumers of any exposure to harmful chemicals. 


Although Prop 65’s formal title refers to water pollution, it governs much more. Prop 65’s stated purpose is to safeguard Californians from chemicals known to the State of California to be carcinogenic or harmful to the reproductive system.


California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) is responsible for publishing a list of chemicals and updating the list at least once a year to include any new substances known to be carcinogenic or cause reproductive toxicity.


The OEHHA has so far officially listed approximately 900+ chemicals.


What Does Prop 65 Cover?

Prop 65 forbids the discharge of such substances into the water. This also mandates that companies notify Californians of any substantial exposure to chemicals on the list when they are present in products purchased for use at home, workplace, or industrial emissions.


Due to the broad scope of Prop 65, this primer will concentrate on product labeling regulations rather than other potential exposure sites. Knowing Prop 65 labeling requirements help you stay compliant so you don’t suffer any penalties.


You may have come across a label that warns you of chemicals in the product you buy that could result in congenital disabilities or other reproductive issues and cancer.


This prop warning equips Californians with knowledge and allows them to decide how much of these chemicals they are ready to be exposed to.


A Law By The People

In 1986, the state’s citizens enacted Prop 65, officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act.


The aim was to safeguard consumers against harmful chemicals. We can find these chemicals in drinks and other commonplace items that can cause reproductive damage, congenital disabilities, or cancer.


The legislation forbids companies from willfully discharging sizable quantities of hazardous chemicals into the water. In addition, they must assure people that the items containing the chemical won’t exceed the maximum exposure limit.


If the chemical levels are too high, the manufacturer will either have to remove the chemical or use a warning sticker.


Why the Sudden Popularity of the Prop 65 Warning Labels?


If this statute has existed for over three decades, why are we only seeing so many Prop 65 warning labels now? Why should you care about Prop 65 labeling requirements now?


The two main factors behind the current proliferation of labels are lawsuits and eCommerce.


New OEHHA regulations went into effect in August 2018. They require display of these labels on products and corresponding websites selling items that fall under the warning’s purview. This is why you might have seen more cautionary messages recently on e-commerce websites like Amazon.


The act also altered the language and format of warnings, requiring them to contain an exclamation point in the middle of a yellow triangle, clear naming of at least one chemical present in the product, and a hyperlink to


Most businesses adhere sticker labels to their products to comply with Prop 65’s “clear and reasonable warning” requirement. Still, other businesses additionally display signage, for instance, in the store’s wine and liquor section.



Play it Safe and Avoid Hefty Fines


In order to prevent lawsuits, more businesses are placing labels on everything. Many brands are adding warnings even on things that aren’t necessarily headed for California. This is due to the e-commerce industry expanding and inventory crossing state borders.


According to OEHHA, failure to comply can result in fines of up to $2,500 for each breach committed each day.


As the list of chemicals gets longer, manufacturers and distributors are responsible for labeling products, and legal cases have increased.


According to the California Office of the Attorney General, there were 200 settlements of over $11 million in the year 2000, and 829 settlements totaling more than $35 million were made in 2018.



MUST READ: Prop 65 Labeling Requirements


The OEHHA developed what’s called, “safe harbor warnings.” These are in place to ensure that they check warnings for consumer products, the environment, and workplace exposures to be in accordance with Prop 65 requirements


If your product includes a chemical that exceeds the NSRL or MADL limitations, the laws demand that you give clear and reasonable label warnings. Although you are not obligated to employ the safe harbor warnings, doing so is strongly advised to prevent any potential legal challenges to any unusual warning strategies.


The only thing that was necessary for the safe harbor warnings under the previous laws was for the company to declare that the product or site included chemicals that the State of California has been made aware of causing birth defects, cancer or malignant tissue growth, or reproductive damage.


Prop 65 labeling requirements: The more detailed new safe harbor warnings call for the following:

  • As opposed to the old warning that simply contained a Prop 65 chemical, the warning label should now disclose that the product has an exposure risk.
  • Businesses must include a minimum of one chemical in the warning. If the warning is for both cancer and reproductive damage, they must name a different chemical for each.
  • Businesses must print the Prop 65 warning in the same language as any labels for the product that is not in English.
  • The warning label must include the website address “”.
  • You must print the warning in a typeface no lower than that used for other consumer information. The minimum font size is 6 points.
  • The word “WARNING” must be in capital letters.
  • To the left of the warning, there must be an image of an exclamation point in a yellow triangle. Make sure your exclamation point isn’t smaller than the height of the word “WARNING.” If yellow isn’t used anywhere on the product or container, black and white are okay.



Implementation and Fine Details Matter


There has been severe criticism of this law from all over. People are concerned that they just find Prop 65 warning stickers on literally all products.


Could it be that manufacturers are using the stickers as a license to release harmful products into the market? Others have expressed concerns that the good intentions may have gone overboard.

But how did this well-intended law transition from a public health proposition to a source of ridicule?


While the initial intention was to make companies reformulate harmful products to make them safer, companies find it more cost-effective just to label them proactively. Consequently, consumers have become accustomed to the barrage of warnings they mostly ignore.



Big Wins So Far?


Although people cite many disadvantages, there have been some victories. One of the earliest was in 1989 when courts compelled the Liquid Paper manufacturer to consent to the removal of the carcinogen trichloroethylene from its original formula.


On its website, OEHHA also highlights other successes. This includes the reduction of arsenic in bottled water and the elimination of toluene from most nail care products. These accomplishments are not insignificant; for instance, toluene is a neurotoxin, and prolonged exposure to arsenic can lower children’s IQ and cause some cancers.



Creating Appreciable Change For Public Safety


Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of illegal toxic threats at the Center for Environmental Health based in California, says, “Warnings are better than nothing, although they are not as good as there just not being the need for a warning.”


She further insists that since the aim is to eliminate harmful chemicals, products should not contain them.


According to Sugerman, her organization’s goal is safer goods, not merely compensation, thus their active initiation of legal action against firms that fail to comply with Prop 65. She claims that CEH’s legal activities helped get lead removed from things like imported confectionery and children’s jewelry.


Sugerman continues to say that Prop 65 is comparable to an iceberg. The warnings are the only thing you can see above the water. “The actual impact of the regulation is really under the waters; it’s really the companies who have been pushed to reformulate their products over years and years as new chemicals have been added to this list.”



The “Public Right to Know Act”


In an effort to increase the visibility of such reformulations, Consumer Reports cosponsored a measure in California state this year. The “Public Right to Know Act” would have outlawed covert settlement deals that kept the public in the dark about hazardous products or environmental conditions. The California Senate approved the bill, but the Assembly rejected it.


The criteria themselves—the limits established by researchers at California’s OEHHA for what is regarded as the maximum exposure levels for each chemical on the list—represent another crucial part of Prop 65.


The inclusion of new substances to the list is subject to the opinions of several state committees made up of experts and members of the public. In other situations, these exposure-level criteria have indeed been helpful. For instance, CR tests the safety of specific foods using the same parameters by determining the amount of heavy metals present in supplements, beverages, and baby food.


In the words of food safety specialist Michael Hansen, Ph.D., senior staff at CR, people in his line of work often turn to Prop 65. They say it’s easier to determine whether something can be considered safe or unsafe because of this. “From the perspective of the customer, you want to be cautious with your health and err on the side of safety,” he says.



What Steps Should Manufacturers, Consumer Product, Personal Care, and Food Industry Businesses Take Next?


Each month, trends regarding Prop 65 shift in accordance with the current state of the legislation. Big factors are also the objectives of citizen plaintiff organizations, chemical concentrations in readily available items, and chemical classifications and classifications on the Prop 65 list.


Companies with significant operations in California should keep an eye on Prop. 65 notifications and trends, and when necessary, add the Prop. 65 warning wording on their product labels.


Prop. 65 poses a significant risk to businesses that sell products in California. Compliance and labeling are expensive, and a Prop. 65 disagreement might cost the prospective defendant legal expenses for fighting the charge as well as legal fees for the plaintiff.



What Should You Do Now?


In order to comply with Prop. 65, make sure to get your products tested for common Prop. 65 chemicals. Apart from this, ensure that everyone understands the public’s exposure to the chemical in question.


Including contractual indemnification clauses in the supply chain makes it possible to ensure that upstream manufacturers, suppliers, and producers thoroughly check items for Prop. 65 compliance before you sell them in California (online or in physical locations).


Liability under Proposition 65 typically lies with those farther up the supply chain. Monitoring Prop. 65 trends and frequent claims is a crucial component of a successful compliance program for those companies.



***Please click here for specific information about Proposition 65 labeling requirements, including symbols, warning content, and other relevant details. Contact us and we’ll help you create new, compliant custom labels based on your current designs.



-Prop 65 Labeling Requirements FAQs-


  • How do I label my Prop 65?

Here are your best guidelines:

  • The warning label must include the website address ““.
  • You must print the warning in a typeface no lower than that used for other consumer information. The minimum font size is 6 points.
  • The word “WARNING” must be in capital letters.
  • To the left of the warning, there must be an image of an exclamation point in a yellow triangle. Make sure this is not to make it smaller than the height of the word “WARNING.” If you don’t use yellow anywhere on the product or container, black and white are okay.


  • Do I need a Prop 65 label?

Every company operating in California with ten or more workers must comply with Prop 65.

Suppose you have distribution and are selling your product in the Californian market containing any substance on the list in quantities greater than the “safe harbor” limit. In that case, you need to clearly and responsibly warn consumers.


  • Where do Prop 65 labels need to be posted?

Prop 65 warnings must be on the product display page and the product itself.


  • Does a prop 65 warning need to be on a white background?

You can use a white or black background if there is no yellow color on your container.


  • How do you properly label chemicals?

Based on our discussion above, to comply with Prop. 65, products containing chemicals must be tested for common chemicals. Everyone must understand 65 chemicals and the public’s exposure to the chemical in question.