Thursday, January 30, 2014

Traps for the Unwary: California’s Prop 65

In a previous blog post in our ongoing series about legal and regulatory challenges specific to the multichannel merchant, I indicated that I would next discuss quirky California laws that can create traps for unwary merchants. The first of these is one of the many voter-initiated statutes enacted by referendum in California. Popularly known as Prop 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 requires the State of California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. This list, which must be updated at least once a year, has grown to include approximately 800 chemicals since it was first published in 1987.

Many of the chemicals on the list are present in common, every day products, and would require massive doses every day for a lifetime to produce an observable effect. For example, acrylamide is a chemical found in many common food products such as potato chips, breads, coffee, tomato sauce, breakfast cereal, and fruit preserves.  See But an individual would have to consume massive quantities of any of these foods every day to create any kind of appreciably increased cancer risk.  See id.  Nevertheless, Proposition  65 requires businesses to notify Californians about the presence of acrymalide and hundreds of other chemicals in the products they purchase.