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:

  • Highlighting the dangers to teens and children from e-cigarettes: Independent tests commissioned by CEH found that e-cigarettes can expose users to one or both of two cancer-causing chemicals. Our legal action is the first to call on the companies to reduce the risks from their products and end their marketing practices that target teens and put younger children at risk.
  • Eliminating a cancer-causing coloring in Pepsi: our work pressured Pepsi to eliminate a cancer-causing chemical from their colas nationwide.
  • Ending lead poisoning threats from children’s jewelry: Our legal action spurred the largest product recall in U.S. history and led to a landmark agreement with Macy’s, Target, Wal-Mart and over 200 other companies to protect children from unsafe and potentially fatal exposures to lead.
  • 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 Walgreens, Disney, Toys R Us, 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.
  • Exposing chemicals that alter our hormones and threaten our health: Many people know about bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-altering chemical that has been linked to fertility problems, asthma and behavior problems in children, and diabetes, obesity, and heart disease in adults. BPS is a chemical cousin of BPA, and recent research has shown that BPS may be no safer than BPA. Our testing of cash register receipts from more than 100 national chains found that companies are moving away from using BPA, but are replacing the toxic chemical with its untested chemical cousin, BPS. CEH is taking legal action to expose the dangers and end the use of these harmful chemicals.
  • Stopping the use of cancer-causing arsenic in playgrounds and backyards:  CEH won legal agreements that eliminated a cancer-causing wood preservative that was widely used by all major makers of children’s wood play structures and backyard decks.
  • Ending 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.

See more real stories of children and families protectedby 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.