What is Prop 65?

Written by:

Maia James


Updated: 02/20/2024

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The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, otherwise known at Prop 65, was created in response to California’s contaminated water supply.

Prop 65 “requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.” California updates this list each year and it has balooned to now cover nearly 1,000 chemicals. Anything sold in the state of California that contains any of these contaminants is legally required to include a Prop 65 warning.  

What can Prop 65 labels tell us?

We are very much in favor of alerting consumers to potential toxins in the things they buy (obviously!). Prop 65 warnings and the subsequent attention resulted in Coke removing a carcinogen that makes caramel coloring from their list of ingredients, among many other positive changes. This is amazing!

Unfortunately, Prop 65 labels don’t tell you which chemical is present and in which quantity. They also don’t tell you if the amount is enough to pose a health risk, or if the route of exposure is likely or even possible.

For instance, there isn’t reason to worry about a light fixture on your ceiling that might contain nickel or lead. These heavy metals are only dangerous if ingested, and something that you’re not touching has basically no chance of ending in your mouth. For this reason, Prop 65 labels can be of limited use to the consumer.

Why do electronics have a Prop 65 label?

All electrical cords will have a Prop 65 warning because of the plastic used, usually BPA.

Until there is an alternative to plastic wires, we are all still going to have cords coming out of all our electronics, most of which we never have to touch.

(But, this is a good reminder to not let your toddler chew on wires in your home!)

Should I avoid products with the Prop 65 label? 

Our best advice is to contact manufacturer’s of Prop 65-labeled products to see if they can provide you with more details about what is triggering the warning. Sometimes it is worth worrying about, but in our opinion the label alone doesn’t provide enough information to decide whether or not a product is safe. 

To add to the confusion, there are plenty of products manufactured overseas that should bare the Prop 65 label but don’t!

As it stands now, we don’t find Prop 65 labels especially useful. We hope that in the future, all consumer brands will include more details about the specific contaminants–and at what levels–have been detected in their products.

Stay sane,

Maia, Founder & CEO

Note: This article contains affiliate links or sponsored content, which means that if you make a purchase, we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that meet our strict standards for non-toxicity and that we use (or want to use!) ourselves. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that make Good Stuff! 

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