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Volume 47 (2020) - Issue 3

The Hidden Success of a Conspicuous Law: Proposition 65 and the Reduction of Toxic Chemical Exposures

Newcomers to California could be forgiven for thinking they have crossed into treacherous terrain. By virtue of the state’s Proposition 65 right-to-know law, store shelves and public garages everywhere announce, “WARNING: This [product/food/facility] contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer [or reproductive harm].” The proliferation of consumer warnings about toxic exposures in everyday life has made Prop 65 highly controversial, as has the degree to which the law incentivizes citizens to sue businesses for failure to warn. Both features make the law recurrently vulnerable to weakening in Sacramento and preemption in Washington, D.C. Against this backdrop—and at a time when Prop 65 faces a live preemption threat in Congress—this Article tells a new story about the law’s considerable benefits in reducing exposure to toxic chemicals.

Feb 03, 2021
Claudia Polsky and Megan Schwarzman