What is a Prop 65 warning and why is it on the label?

February 28, 2019 | Posted by Scott Sarver

We’ve all seen the warning on the label of something that we have purchased.

WARNING: Cancer and Reproductive Harm.

Sometimes this warning shows up in places where you would least expect to see it. Maybe you’ve seen it on a cup of coffee you pick up from your favorite coffee shop, or the new guitar pedal you just picked up, or maybe even as you’ve walked into Disney...yep, the happiest place on earth has the warnings up in their park.

What is Prop 65?

    Formally Proposition 65 is a labeling/warning mandate in California officially known as the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.  It was ballot proposition 65, which is what we informally know it as today. The bill stipulated that the public had a right to know about harmful chemicals to which they might be exposed. For example, if a product contains asbestos, the public has a right to know.

    Even though Prop 65 is only applicable in California, due to the size of California's economy, manufacturers will label all their products in accordance with this bill. As a product is packaged, it would be inefficient to have multiple labeling standards based upon the geographical area where the product may be sold. So while Prop65 is only enforceable in California it has far-reaching implications.

    As of November of 2018, the list of chemicals that Prop 65 encompasses over 900 different chemicals. These are determined by California’s state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).

The OEHHA keeps the list of chemicals that require a warning and sets standards. “We at our agency develop what are known as safe harbor levels,” Sam Delson, a spokesperson for OEHHA said. Those levels are the line that divides exposures that need a warning from those that do not. (

If a product contains the determined amount of a listed chemical, a Prop 65 warning is necessary. Take for example the warning on Coffee, currently in litigation. The lawsuit claims that because a chemical called acrylamide can be produced when coffee beans are roasted, stores that sell coffee should have to post a Proposition 65 warning.

It is interesting to note that the warning is triggered because roasted beans might contain acrylamide. Several items are affected similarly, a listed chemical might be present or it might not, or present in trace amounts in a raw good prior to manufacture/blending. Unfortunately, Prop 65 does not allow ambiguous language in the warning, a manufacturer cannot say “Warning: May cause cancer or reproductive harm”

To best understand the danger, refer to section 15 and 16 of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). For chemical products, an SDS has to be made available to purchasers. On our website, you can find the SDS for all of our products on the product specific page or in the top menu of the homepage.

It might be surprising that environmentally and user safe products would warrant a Prop 65 warning. During the manufacturing process for our raw goods, sometimes harmful components are removed from the raw goods or are used temporarily while making them. In our raw goods, the manufacturers that supply them indicate that trace amounts of Prop 65 chemicals occur; they may or may not be present in the finished raw goods at zero to very small trace amounts but the manufacturer has to indicate that they do. So, in our final products, we dilute them even more, but trace amounts may be present.

Franmar is committed to bringing you safer products to use. Hopefully, this has helped to explain why you might see a Prop65 warning on one of our products or on your favorite cup of coffee.