What Is the P65 Warning?

You may have heard of or seen a Proposition 65 warning in California or elsewhere in the United States. The label or sign that displays this warning may seem scary at first, but it is a great way to keep citizens informed about their possible exposure to harmful substances. 

Many people refer to this type of warning as a P65 warning for short. They’ve been around since 1986, and even if you haven’t noticed them before, you may start to see them more frequently once you learn about them in this post.

Read on to learn about the history of P65 warnings and what they include. Find out what these warnings mean for you and your family, too.

The History of Proposition 65

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it became more clear than ever to average citizens that people are frequently exposed to toxic substances. Pollution was at an all-time high. Air pollution and water pollution were everywhere. Many groups began working towards change.

The Clean Air Act was passed in 1955 and the Clean Water Act in 1972. However, there were still little regulations in many areas that could directly affect people’s health. Many consumer products, building materials, and common chemicals were not labeled with the proper warnings.

Nationwide, people began to become concerned about the negative effects of these chemicals on their health and well-being. Voters in California decided to do something about it to protect themselves and the people of future generations.

Proposition 65 was born. This direct voter initiative was on the November 1986 ballot and it passed with 63% of the vote. 

What Is Proposition 65?

The full name of the law this proposition described is the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. However, because the name is so long, the simpler P65 warning name has stuck for over thirty years and is what it is commonly called.

The goals of Proposition 65 are to protect drinking water sources from toxic substances that cause cancer and birth defects. It also aims to reduce or eliminate exposure to the chemicals that would cause these things everywhere by warning citizens that they are present.

Warning Signs and Labels 

The warning signs mandated by this law are posted all over the state of California. They also appear in label form. These signs and labels inform people about the presence of toxic substances in physical locations or in products for sale. 

Because these signs and labels are so common, many people don’t even pay them any attention anymore. However, for those who do wish to stay informed about nearby toxicity, they are very helpful. People who wish to avoid substances that may cause cancer or reproductive harm can use these signs and labels as a guide to tell them to steer clear.

These signs and labels are only required in the state of California. However, they can be seen on products nationwide because many products are distributed throughout the country. Also, some businesses outside of California choose to post P65 warnings simply out of courtesy toward their customers.

P65 Warning Inclusions

Part of the Proposition 65 law requires the state of California to publish a list each year of the chemicals that require warning and public notification. Today, that list includes over nine hundred chemicals. Some of the chemicals on the list are rare; others are quite common.

In order for a chemical to appear on the list, it must be accepted as cancer-causing by an organization that California recognizes as an authoritative body. Some examples of authoritative bodies include the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the US National Toxicology Program, and the US Environmental Protection Agency, to name a few.

P65 Warning Labels

Any business that sells products in the state of California must include a clear warning that their product may cause harm unless the amount of the chemical included is not high enough to cause a risk. 

There is no mandated language that the business must use in their warning; the wording is up to them. However, most labels and signs warn consumers that the product includes a dangerous chemical and recognizes that the State of California knows that it can potentially cause cancer.

More recent labels and warnings also include a link to the state’s P65 warning website for more information.

Finding Out More

Although businesses must label products that contain toxic ingredients, they don’t have to name the type of chemicals included nor information about them. If California residents wish to learn more information, they are directed to contact the manufacturer of the product. 

Most manufacturers are happy to comply with these requests. Interested consumers might ask about the potentially harmful substances and how they might become exposed to them. They also might ask about the specific negative effects of these substances. They can ask how they can avoid contact with them while still purchasing and using the product.

If the information about the chemical provided by the manufacturer is not enough, consumers can find out more about them online. There are fact sheets about many common toxic chemicals on the state’s website. 


Because Proposition 65 has been in effect since the 1980s, most businesses comply today without a second thought. However, if a company does not comply and is caught, they can be sued for non-compliance.

The California Attorney General’s Office is in charge of enforcing this law. But any district attorney or city attorney in the state can enforce it as well. Lawsuits have been brought on companies for non-compliance by these offices as well as by consumer advocacy groups, private citizens, and law firms.

If a product does contain harmful chemicals, it is difficult for these businesses to win, so most find that it’s far easier to comply in the first place.

The P65 Warning Protects Americans

P65 warnings have been very successful and useful since they began over thirty years ago. They have helped to keep the people of California safe from toxic chemicals and they will continue to do so in the future.

Proposition 65 is an example of a law that the people wanted. Today, it is actually working for those people, and it has likely saved countless lives in the process.

There are so many toxic chemicals in our water and air that can hurt our families. Many can be reduced or eliminated with the use of the right filters for the job. If you are interested in purchasing air filters or water filters to keep your family safe, please check out the products we offer on our site.


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