In 1986, California voters approved the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act known as Proposition 65. https://oehha.ca.gov/proposition-65 The purpose of Proposition 65 is to ensure that people are informed about exposure to chemicals known by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and/or other reproductive harm.
Proposition 65 requires the State to publish a list of chemicals https://oehha.ca.gov/proposition-65/chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. This list has grown to include approximately 800 chemicals since it was first published in 1987. It must be updated at least once a year.
It also prohibits California businesses from knowingly discharging significant amounts of listed chemicals into sources of drinking water.
Additionally, it requires businesses who sell products in the State of California to notify Californians about significant amounts of these listed chemicals that may exist in the products they purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment.
The list contains a wide range of naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. These chemicals include additives or ingredients in pesticides, common household products, food, drugs, dyes, or solvents. Listed chemicals may also be used in manufacturing and construction, or they may be by products of chemical processes, such as motor vehicle exhaust.
Over 800 chemicals https://oehha.ca.gov/proposition-65/chemicals have been listed under California Prop 65. They include pesticides, heavy metals, and Vitamin A at certain levels.
Certain listed chemicals, such as lead, are widely distributed through the environment in air, soil, water, and rocks. As a result, these types of chemicals are often found in commonly eaten foods and throughout the food supply even though these chemicals are not intentionally added to foods or nutritional supplements.
To check the whole list click here. https://oehha.ca.gov/proposition-65/chemicals
Who is listing them?
A chemical can be listed if it has been classified as a carcinogen or as a reproductive toxicant by an organization deemed "authoritative" on the subject. For carcinogens, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer are deemed authoritative. With respect to reproductive toxicants, the authorities are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and International Agency for Research on Cancer. A chemical can also be listed if it is required to be labeled or identified as a carcinogen or as a reproductive toxicant by an agency of the state or federal government.
How are chemicals added to the list?
There are four ways https://oehha.ca.gov/proposition-65/how-chemicals-are-added-proposition-65-list for a chemical to be added to the Proposition 65 list.
A chemical can be listed if either of two independent committees of scientists and health professionals finds that the chemical has been clearly shown to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. These two committees-the Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC) and the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant (DART) Identification Committee-are part of OEHHA's Science Advisory Board. The committee members are appointed by the Governor and are designated as the "State's Qualified Experts" for evaluating chemicals under Proposition 65.
When determining whether a chemical should be placed on the list, the committees base their decisions on the most current scientific information available. OEHHA staff scientists compile all relevant scientific evidence on various chemicals for the committees to review. The committees also consider comments from the public before making their decisions.
A second way for a chemical to be listed is if an organization designated as an "authoritative body" by the CIC or DART Identification Committee has identified it as causing cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. The following organizations have been designated as authoritative bodies: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Toxicology Program, and International Agency for Research on Cancer.
A third way for a chemical to be listed is if an agency of the state or federal government requires that it be labeled or identified as causing cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. Most chemicals listed in this manner are prescription drugs that are required by the U.S. FDA to contain warnings relating to cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.
A fourth way requires the listing of chemicals meeting certain scientific criteria and identified in the California Labor Code as causing cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. This method established the initial chemical list following voter approval of Proposition 65 in 1986 and continues to be used as a basis for listing as appropriate.
How does Proposition 65 influence on business?
If a Proposition 65 warning is posted, it means that the business issuing the warning knows that one or more listed chemicals is merely present in its product. A warning must be given unless a business demonstrates that the exposure it causes poses "no significant risk."
With respect to carcinogens, the "no significant risk" level is defined as the level which is calculated to result in not more than one excess case of cancer in 100,000 individuals exposed over a 70-year lifetime. In other words, if you are exposed to the chemical in question at this level every day for 70 years, theoretically, it will increase your chances of getting cancer by no more than 1 case in 100,000 individuals so exposed.
With respect to reproductive toxicants, the "no significant risk" level is defined as the level of exposure which, even if multiplied by 1,000, will not produce birth defects or other reproductive harm. In other words, the level of exposure is below the "no observable effect level," divided by 1,000. (The "no observable effect level" is the highest dose level which has not been associated with observable reproductive harm in humans or test animals.)
The California government has also clarified that “The fact that a product bears a Proposition 65 warning does not mean by itself that the product is unsafe.” The government has also explained, “You could think of Proposition 65 more as a ‘right to know’ law than a pure product safety law.”
Because businesses do not file reports with OEHHA regarding what warnings they have issued and why, OEHHA is not able to provide further information about any particular warning. The business issuing the warning should be contacted for specific information, such as what chemicals are present, and at what levels, as well as how exposure to them may occur.
To further assist businesses, OEHHA develops numerical guidance levels, known as “safe harbor numbers” (described below) for determining whether a warning is necessary or whether discharges of a chemical into drinking water sources are prohibited.
OEHHA has developed safe harbor levels to guide businesses in determining whether a warning is necessary or whether discharges of a chemical into drinking water sources are prohibited. A business has "safe harbor" from Proposition 65 warning requirements or discharge prohibitions if exposure to a chemical occurs at or below these levels. These safe harbor levels consist of No Significant Risk Levels for chemicals listed as causing cancer and Maximum Allowable Dose Levels for chemicals listed as causing birth defects or other reproductive harm. OEHHA has established over 300 safe harbor levels to date and continues to develop more levels for listed chemicals.
Businesses are required to provide a "clear and reasonable" warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to a listed chemical. This warning can be given by a variety of means, such as by labeling a consumer product, posting signs at the workplace, distributing notices at a rental housing complex, or publishing notices in a newspaper. Once a chemical is listed, businesses have 12 months to comply with warning requirements
Sometimes you will see a product for sale that has a label with a warning along the lines of the following:
This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm.
California has two different types of warnings – those for cancer and those for reproductive health effects. Some products have one or the other of these warnings and some products have both warnings.
These warnings are required by California labeling law Proposition 65 (or Prop 65 for short), which is meant to notify individuals in California of exposures to Prop 65-listed chemicals. Prop 65 does not ban the sale of any products containing these chemicals; it only requires warnings.
What’s the difference between cancer and reproductive toxicity?
A chemical listed under Prop 65 as a carcinogen has been shown (often in laboratory animal studies) to cause cancer. A chemical listed under Prop 65 as a reproductive toxin has been shown (again, often in laboratory animal studies) to cause male or female reproductive toxicity or developmental toxicity. These tests are often performed with very high doses of chemicals. NOTE: NOW Foods does not test its products on animals.
Why do I see Proposition 65 if I don’t live in California?
Modern supply chains typically distribute products throughout the U.S. or a region of the U.S. It can be very difficult for companies whose products are distributed both inside and outside of California to arrange for the warning to be delivered only to customers in California. Many companies include the warning on their product label itself, in other widely-distributed literature or on their website, in which case the warning may appear no matter where the actual sale occurs.
Food grown near roads or old buildings may be contaminated with lead due to historical use of leaded gasoline and lead-based paint18, 19. Food grown near, downstream, or downwind from industrial sites, landfills, and military bases may also be contaminated with various chemicals; for example, much of the U.S. mid-west is contaminated with traces of radioactive fallout from the nuclear tests in Nevada in the 1950’s20, 21. Food from the ocean, lakes, and rivers often contains trace levels of various contaminants, such as mercury and pesticides in fish.
Since everyone consumes water each day in one form or another, drinking water can be a source of daily exposure to Prop-65 listed chemicals. Lead, arsenic, pesticides, radioactive isotopes, chlorination by-products, and other chemicals may be found at low levels in many water supplies.
When a food product or any other consumer product made with drinking water contains a Prop 65-listed chemical, any portion of the chemical contributed to the product by drinking water is not used to determine whether a Prop 65 warning is needed.
Where to get more information?
A great deal of information is available from authoritative sources regarding chemicals in food. Here are a few sources to consider.
- State of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) website:www.oehha.ca.gov/
- U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry:www.atsdr.cdc.gov/
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommendations regarding mercury in seafood: www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/metals/ucm351781.htm
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency information regarding mercury and fish: www.epa.gov/choose-fish-and-shellfish-wisely
- State of California recommendations regarding chemicals in fish: www.oehha.ca.gov/fish/chems/index.htmlhttp://www.oehha.ca.gov/fish/general/broch.html
- EPA data on maximum contaminant levels in drinking water:http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm
- Study on the cancer-causing potential of chlorinated water and chlorination by-products:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8487327
This information is provided by the American Herbal Products Association