You may have noticed warnings on certain products stating that they contains chemicals known to produce cancer or cause reproductive damage. These warnings are the result of California’s Proposition 65, or the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. Often referred to simply as Prop 65, this law was enacted in 1986 to help residents of California make informed decisions about the products they purchase. As a result, these substances are often found in food and food products such as nutritional supplements. A Prop 65 warning does not necessarily mean these substances have been added to the product.
What is Prop 65?
Prop 65 requires the state of California to maintain an up-to-date list of chemicals “known to the State of California” to cause birth defects or cancer. The list is updated every year and currently contains more than 800 chemicals, both man-made chemicals and chemicals found naturally in the environment. The complete list can be found on the website of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
Prop 65 also requires all businesses selling products in the state of California to provide “clear and reasonable warnings” if any of these listed chemicals are in the foods or beverages they offer, or if they are in the air in a business or a public facility.
Prop 65 has succeeded in identifying many companies who are exposing California residents to large amounts of toxic fumes and chemicals. Thanks in part to Prop 65, California residents have substantially decreased car emissions and alcohol-associated birth defects.
Why am I seeing Prop 65 warnings if I don’t live in California?
Even if you don’t live in California, you may see warning labels on products if those same products are sold in California or to people who live in California.
Some manufacturers may also choose to include a Prop 65 warning on products in order to protect themselves against a potential lawsuit — even if the ingredients in the product do not exceed Prop 65 limits.
How Prop 65 affects the health and wellness industry
The regulations imposed by Prop 65 are stricter than those established by both the FDA and EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), which can create some confusion for consumers attempting to decipher warning labels.
Certain substances on the list — such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic — appear naturally in soil and even in water. Despite our best attempts to minimize our exposure to these substances, they not completely avoidable. Heavy metals are inescapable in our atmosphere and small amounts of them are within virtually all foods that grow in soil. Some of these substances are often found in food and food products such as nutritional supplements but a Prop 65 warning does not always indicate these substances have been added to the product.
Are these products unsafe?
A warning label does not necessarily mean a product is unsafe. Because Prop 65 standards are so stringent, some substances are listed at 1000 times below the level of exposure determined to cause no adverse effects in animal studies.
And while all of the cancer-causing substances are classified as at least probable carcinogens, they have not all been proven by the global scientific community as substances that definitively cause cancer.
Similarly, a product without a Prop 65 warning label isn’t necessarily safer. Because warning labels are required only in California, some product manufacturers may decide that they are not subject to Prop 65 standards and may not label their products accordingly. When shopping for supplements, you may see one product with a warning label, and a different product with nearly identical ingredients that does not contain a label.
Where can I get more information about a product?
A Prop 65 warning indicates only if a product contains an ingredient that might cause cancer or reproductive issues. The label won’t tell you what the substance is, how much of it may be in the product, or what your level of risk is. If you want to obtain more information about your potential risk, it may be necessary to contact the product manufacturer.
Some Garcia Weight Loss products may contain small amounts of substances listed under Prop 65. As a courtesy to our customers in California, these products include Prop 65 warning labels. However, all of our products adhere to federal guidelines for nutritional supplements, so our customers can feel safe about consuming our products. If you have questions about any of the products listed on our website, contact Garcia Weight Loss.
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on April 20, 2018