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Key Issues

California's Proposition 65


Voted into law in 1986 to protect Californians from cancer-causing chemicals such as additives, dyes, pesticides, and solvents, from contaminating the water supply, Proposition 65 (also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act) is a “right to know” law that requires a warning label to be printed on packaging noting the existence of any such chemicals.

Proposition 65 allows private persons or organizations to bring actions against alleged violators on behalf of the general public. If the Attorney General or local prosecutor does not take action within 60 days, a lawsuit may then be filed.

Failure to comply with the Act can lead to fines of up to $2,500 per day per violation, with bounty hunters keeping 25 percent of penalty amounts. Plaintiffs also are entitled to reimbursement for the cost of bringing suit, including attorney fees.

What are the Latest Developments?

Added to the list in 2013 were ink dye Disperse Yellow 3 and 2,6-Dimethyl-N-nitrosomorpholine (DMNM), chemicals that can form in certain industrial environments, such as a machine workshop or converting plant, where free secondary amines come in contact with nitrosating agents.

The carton industry is also concerned with the glue and ink additive dibutyl benzyl phthalate (DBP), because phthalates – believed to cause birth defects and reproductive malfunctions – are on the Prop 65 list. Although many ink suppliers have removed DBP from their formulations, it is still used in some UV inks and coatings.

Benzophenone (BP), a common a common ingredient in sunblock and a photoinitiator in UV coatings (particularly on magazine covers and labels), was also added to the list in 2012. Low cost replacements for BP suffer from the same flaws as BP except that they are not well known enough yet to make the Prop. 65 list. Unfortunately, BP replacements that do solve the migration problem are expensive.

Radtech, an industry association focused on UV/EB technology, is working to develop a system for defining the safe harbor exposure level for BP and to develop a system for evaluating printed products to test if the safe harbor level is met. However, this process will take some months to complete and roll out.

PPC’s Position

PPC and the AF&PA are currently developing an Excel-based program to help determine if converters need to provide Proposition 65 warnings on their packages. In the meantime, if you sell any packaging to a client who sells, distributes, or makes goods in the state of California, check with your suppliers (glue, coatings, inks, etc.) to see if they use any of the chemicals on the Prop 65 list, such as DBP, yellow 3 dye, and DMNM. If so, we recommend switching to products that are free of such chemicals so you can avoid adding warning labels to your packaging.