Legal Action

Using the law to protect children and families.

CEH takes legal action when business products and practices put our children’s and families’ health at risk.

In 1986, California voters overwhelmingly approved an innovative law to protect people from toxic chemicals. The law is called the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known by its ballot measure number, Proposition 65, or Prop 65. The law sets rules for protecting drinking water in California from pollution by cancer-causing chemicals or chemicals that can cause serious reproductive health problems. The law also requires businesses to notify people when those businesses  expose them to harmful chemicals in the air or in consumer products.

Under our Prop 65 actions since 1996, CEH has won hundreds of legal agreements with major companies, including many of the biggest names in business, to reduce or eliminate health threats to children and families. To list just a few examples:

  • Arsenic in wood playground structures and backyard decks: Prior to our legal action, nearly all of these structures were made with an arsenic-based wood preservative. But studies showed that children playing on such wood structures could be exposed to high levels of the cancer-causing chemical. We secured legally binding agreements with most of the leading national makers of play structures, requiring them to end the use of arsenic-treated wood.
  • Air pollution near schools and neighborhoods: CEH has won dozens of legal agreements with businesses to end their emissions of percloroethylene (perc), a solvent that causes cancer and is linked with kidney and liver damage. In one case, a large manufacturer that emitted more than a ton of the chemical into the surrounding neighborhood, including a public park and a daycare center, reduced its perc emissions to zero following our legal settlement.
  • Lead in children’s products: In nearly a decade of work to protect children from lead poisoning hazards, CEH’s legal actions have required companies including Disney, Target, Macy’s, Pfizer, and hundreds of others to end lead risks to children. Our work exposed high levels of lead in diaper rash creams, lunchboxes, baby bibs, candy, jewelry, bounce houses, artificial turf, and many others. As a result of our work, in 2008 Congress adopted the first-ever federal law setting strict limits on the amount of  lead in all children’s products.

See more real stories of children and families protected by Prop 65, and check our previous work for detailed case histories of these and other victories.

CEH also offers free testing of toys and other items for lead by appointment or mail-in. See details here.