Prop 65 Lawsuits
Under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, companies are required to include a Prop 65 warning if their product is included on a list of chemicals that are known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. To hold companies accountable for warning about these dangerous chemicals, individuals can file Prop 65 lawsuits to impose hefty statutory penalties on companies that have violated the law.
What Is Proposition 65?
California Proposition 65 was approved by state voters in 1986 and became the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. One requirement of Prop 65 is that the State of California must publish a list of chemicals that are known to cause serious health problems.
The prop 65 list was initially published in 1987. It must be updated at least once per year, and it currently includes more than 800 chemicals.
In addition to requiring the publication of the Prop 65 list, the law also requires businesses to include a prop 65 warning if their products include chemicals on the prop 65 list, unless the possible exposure to the chemicals is low enough that it will not pose a significant risk of cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Companies are also prohibited from releasing significant amounts of the listed chemicals into drinking water supplies.
Prop 65 is enforced by the California Attorney General’s Office as well as district attorneys and city attorneys in cities with populations of more than 750,000. Additionally, individuals may file prop 65 lawsuits against companies that are allegedly in violation of the law. Companies that fail to provide a required prop 65 warning may be subject to statutory penalties of as much as $2,500 per violation per day.
California Proposition 65 List of Chemicals
The Prop 65 list includes naturally-occurring and synthetic chemicals that are known carcinogens or that can cause birth defects or reproductive issues. These chemicals may be additives or ingredients in household products, foods, drugs, pesticides, solvents or dyes. The chemicals added to the list may be used in manufacturing and construction, or they may be byproducts of a chemical process.
Chemicals may be added to the Prop 65 warning list in one of four different ways:
1. Chemicals that meet certain scientific criteria and which are identified in the California Labor Code as causing cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm are required to be listed on the Prop 65 warning list. The initial list was established in 1986 using this method, and the method is still used to update the list.
2. Committees of scientists and health professionals from the Carcinogen Identification Committee or the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee find that a chemical causes cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Both of these committees are included as part of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s Science Advisory Board.
3. An organization that has been designated as an “authoritative body” by either the Carcinogen Identification Committee or the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee identifies a chemical as causing cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.
4. A state or federal government agency requires the chemical to be labeled as causing cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Generally, the chemicals that are added to the Prop 65 warning list are prescription drugs for which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires warnings about cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.
How to File a Prop 65 Lawsuit
There is a very specific procedure for filing a Prop 65 lawsuit.
The California Attorney General’s Office must be notified as soon as the case is filed. Additionally, the AG’s office must be provided with copies of notices and supporting documents. These steps are important because the Attorney General’s Office is required to make certain information about pending cases and their outcomes available to the public. The AG’s office must also be notified about the terms of any Prop 65 settlement that has been reached.
If you are thinking of filing a Prop 65 lawsuit, contact the Prop 65 attorneys at Bradley/Grombacher LLP for a free consultation. Our legal team is skilled at investigating and litigating Prop 65 lawsuits, helping clients secure compensation while holding companies accountable for the safety of their products. Don’t delay—act now to learn more about your legal options.