Examples of Environmental Labeling Programs
California’s Proposition 65 Labeling Law
In November 1986 California voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative to address growing concerns about exposures to toxic chemicals. That initiative became The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known by its original name, Proposition 65.
Proposition 65 requires the governor to publish a list of chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. This list must be updated at least once a year. More than 550 chemicals are listed.
Under Proposition 65, businesses are
- Prohibited from knowingly discharging listed chemicals into sources of drinking water; and
- Required to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to a listed chemical. This warning can be achieved by labeling a consumer product, posting signs at the workplace, and/or publishing notices in a newspaper.
Proposition 65 provides a market-based incentive for manufacturers to remove listed chemicals from their products. This has resulted in the reduction of the amount of lead in ceramic tableware. Air emissions of certain chemicals—including ethylene oxide, hexavalent chromium, and chloroform —from facilities in California have been significantly reduced as a result of Proposition 65.
Certain chemicals on the list are no longer used as constituents of some commonly used products. For example, trichloroethylene is no longer used in most correction fluids, toluene has been removed from many nail care products, and foil caps on wine bottles no longer contain lead.