A Look At Prop 65 Through A Retailer’s Eyes

ARMO Digital Matters

ARMO Digital Matters, Dennis RobertsBy Dennis Roberts
VP of Sales and Brand Development, Ecklers Industries


August 30th is the deadline for compliance with California’s revised Proposition 65 law.

Prop 65 was a ballot initiative enacted by the voters in 1986 but recent revisions made by the California Legislature are now coming to the forefront in our industry and catching many off guard. SEMA and ARMO have sought to educate members by sharing information about the updated law at www.sema.org/prop65. The law requires warning labels on products made or sold in California that contain chemicals listed as known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.

There are over 900 chemicals currently on the Prop 65 list. There are also hefty fines for noncompliance, up to $2,500 per day per violation if the product is not labeled correctly. See graphic below for acceptable warning labels. Prop 65 is administered by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). However, enforcement is pursued by private law firms acting as bounty hunters.

Prop 65 has stirred a lot of buzz. The warning requirement applies to any business in the chain of distribution, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers, along with out-of-state companies selling product in California. Manufacturers have the primary responsibility for providing Prop 65 warnings, but distributors and retailers may be held liable for unlabeled products (ex: removing a label or failing to affix labels provided by the manufacturer).

At the moment, the most recent targets affecting the auto parts industry include lead and lead in brass parts, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), BPA in hard plastics, and phthalates in soft plastics (BBP, DBP, DIDP, DINP, DnHP and DEHP). Phthalates are used in a variety of products from pipes to plastic wraps, artificial leather, electrical wire insulation and adhesives. These substances are frequently found in plastisol, vinyl hand tool grips, vinyl seat and steering wheel covers, gaskets, automotive hoses and other products.

I am employed by a large retailer with well over 300,000 SKUs and the fallout has been considerable. We service both retail and wholesale customers and cannot ascertain if the product will ultimately end up in California. About 5% of our vendors are providing information leaving the retailers to categorize, and label the products on the web, catalogs and retail facing packaging. This is a formidable task. The labor and production sacrificed for a non-value adding exercise is not adding to the top or bottom line.

We urge you to devote time to learning more about Prop 65 and its labeling requirements. Visit www.SEMA.org/prop65 and www.P65warnings.ca.gov.

ARMO Digital Matters

No part of this article constitutes legal advice, and you should consult with legal counsel prior to using this guidance. If you have any questions or need further information, contact Daniel Ingber, SEMA Managing Director of Government and Legal Affairs at danieli@sema.org.

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