If you sell, supply, or distribute products in California, it’s crucial to understand (or at least be aware of) the new Proposition 65 warning label to ensure proper labeling. The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65, requires entities doing business in California to provide warnings about exposure significant exposures to chemicals that have been identified by the state to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm.
On August 30, 2018, an amendment to the current regulation will be implemented that changes how warnings labels should be displayed to the public. In this article, we’ll go over the new label requirements and how you can update your product labels.
An Overview of Proposition 65
Prior to 2018, warning labels only needed to state that a listed chemical is present in a product but they weren’t required to disclose what the chemical is, where to find it, how consumers will be exposed to it, how to reduce exposure, or what the level of risk is. The new changes to Proposition 65 address these shortcomings by requiring labels to clearly inform consumers that there is a harmful chemical found in the product, the name of at least one of those chemicals, and in what ways the chemical(s) may be hazardous to consumers’ health.
The new warning system has several main goals which include:
- Making warnings more meaningful and useful for the public
- Reducing “over-warning” in which businesses provide unnecessary warnings
- Giving businesses clearer guidelines on how and where to provide warnings
Some specific groups that are going to be directly affected include manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and now internet vendors. Manufacturers and distributors still have the initial obligation to put a warning label on their products but the responsibility isn’t only on them. Retailers will have to pay attention to the specific duties they’re now assigned according to the updated regulations.
Before, internet sales weren’t directly included in Proposition 65 but now they have regulations guiding the arrangement of warnings on web pages listing products. Furthermore, the language used at facilities such as amusement parks, parking facilities, designated smoking areas, etc., has been added to the new regulations as well.
Meet The New Proposition 65 Warning Label
The new regulation changes the safe harbor warnings in several important ways. For example, the new warnings for consumer products will say the product “can expose you to” a Proposition 65 chemical rather than saying the product “contains” the chemical. The warning labels will need to include three main elements:
- The name of at least one chemical that caused the warning to be written must be listed
- The Internet address for the new Proposition 65 warnings website, www.P65Warnings.ca.gov, which includes additional information on the health effects of listed chemicals and ways to reduce or eliminate exposure to them
- A yellow and black triangle warning symbol must always be located on the label
Not only is the language important but also its readability – labels must be written in six-point or larger font. In addition to these requirements, the new warning regulation also:
- Adds new “tailored” warnings that provide more specific information for certain kinds of exposures, products, and places
- Provides for website warnings for products purchased over the Internet
- Provides for warnings in languages other than English in some cases
- Clarifies the roles and responsibilities of manufacturers and retailers in providing warnings
To help you get an idea on how to write your new Prop 65 warning labels, see how the old and new warning labels differ.
Old vs New Warning Label Language
Before the new regulation, a typical Proposition 65 warning would state, “WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer.” A sample new warning would look more like this:
“ WARNING: This product can expose you to chemicals including arsenic, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer. For more information, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.”
It’s important to note that a business isn’t required to use the new safe harbor warning system to comply with the law, however, using the new safe harbor warnings is an effective way for businesses to protect themselves against Proposition 65 enforcement actions. Businesses that use the safe harbor warnings are deemed compliant with the law’s requirement for clear and reasonable warnings. Businesses have the option to provide different warnings if they believe they comply with the law. Additionally, small businesses with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from Proposition 65’s warning requirements.
Once you have your new warning label ready to go, your next step is to get your labels printed.
How To Update Your Labels
There are several ways you can add a new Prop 65 warning to your products to meet regulatory requirements. You can:
- Update your labels to include the new warning: Give your label designer the new warning to add to your existing label artwork and then send us the new file to print. You can also use this opportunity to completely revamp your label artwork since you’re getting new labels printed anyway!
- Apply a cover-up label over the outdated warning: Cover-up labels (also known as “correction” and “blockout” labels) are printed on highly opaque materials to ensure that absolutely no text and/or graphics underneath the label can be seen. They can be more a more cost-effective option than printing a whole new label.
- Add a separate label to your product: If your product doesn’t have any warning on it and if there’s enough room on the product, another option is to print a separate warning label to apply to the product.
When ordering labels, communication is key to ensure your labels meet your needs. Let us know the details of your labeling project so we can recommend the best labeling solution.
Labeling regulations can feel cumbersome for business owners but they serve an important purpose for consumers. Fortunately, there are lots of resources available to help you meet regulatory requirements more easily. For more information on Prop 65, please visit OEHHA’s website.