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Understanding Prop 65 California

California Proposition 65 Warning: "This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm."

What is California Proposition 65?

California Proposition 65 (Prop 65) is a ballot initiate approved by voters in 1986. It was called the “Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act” and the original objective of the proposition was to stop the dumping of toxic chemicals in California waterways. The list of chemicals that were known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm numbered around 30. Today, that number has ballooned to around 800.

There is much controversy surrounding the actual levels of chemicals that can cause defects or reproductive harm as many of the standards are arbitrary and not supported by factual data. Prop 65 is especially strict in regards to lead. It requires a warning label if a product exposes a person to more than 0.5 micrograms per day—a quantity that is one thousand times lower than the amount known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm according to the federal government.

“Proposition 65 warning does not necessarily mean a product is in violation of any product-safety standards or requirements.” California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment 

Why do I see so many Prop 65 labels?

If you go to any doctor or dentist office in California, you will see Prop 65 warnings. You will also find them at Starbucks, Whole Foods, and even Trader Joe's. This is because fillings and many doctor tools contain trace amounts of lead. You can also find Prop 65 warnings on anything from fishing poles to chain saws to lawn mowers. Essentially, anything containing one of several hundred known carcinogens is required to have a warning regardless of the quantity of harmful chemical contained. According to many studies, the risk of actually getting sick from any of these products is essentially zero. Manufacturers make the decision to place a warning label based on their knowledge of the types of chemicals in their products. By law, people must be warned about any chemical on the California list, unless the level of exposure would pose no significant cancer risk. The law defines "no significant risk" as a substance that would cause no more than one extra case of cancer in 100,000 people who were exposed to the chemical over a 70-year lifetime. A compound can be left off the warning list if a person exposed to the substance at the expected level for 70 years would have a 1 in 100,000 chance or less of getting cancer due to that exposure. The law also has similar strict cutoff levels for birth defects and reproductive harm.

Why do so many herbal supplements have a Prop 65 label?

Many herbal supplements contain naturally occurring trace amounts of lead. It is almost impossible to avoid lead completely because it commonly occurs in nature and, sometimes, in substantial quantities at the earth's surface. In fact, trace amounts of lead can be found in virtually all soils, lakes, rivers, and oceans. For your safety, our products meet or exceed all federally mandated safety levels. In fact all of our products are cGMP which is Current Good Manufacturing Practices for dietary supplements and certified organic when possible. 

ALL OF OUR PRODUCTS FALL WITHIN THE FEDERALLY MANDATED SAFETY LEVELS FOR LEAD. 

Are the products on First Chinese Herbs complaint with Prop 65?

Because of the nature of the state-specific law and the fact that First Chinese Herbs ships to California, we are obligated to put the Prop 65 warning on many of our products. Please be assured that all of our products fall within the federally mandated safety levels for lead. Additionally, our products are regularly tested, processed under cGMP (current good manufacturing processes), and compliant with all national standards required by the FDA and USDA. A Certificate of Analysis is available for bulk herbs and powders upon request.

Did you know that a bar of chocolate contains more lead than any herbal supplement?

That's right! A two-ounce bar of chocolate contains up to 43 micograms of lead, while the typical herbal formula contains only around 3-15 micrograms. So why isn't there a Prop 65 warning label on chocolate? The chocolate industry spent millions of dollars proving that the lead in chocolate occurs naturally and therefore cannot be considered a contaminant. Unfortunately for herbal companies, few had the millions of dollars required in 1986 to prove that the lead in supplements is naturally occurring. Thus, we see Prop 65 warnings on herbal supplements but not on chocolate bars which contain a great deal more lead. This doesn't mean that chocolate bars are unsafe; it is just to point out a discrepancy between standards for Prop 65.

How do the limits set in Prop 65 compare to federal limits?

Prop 65 standards are among the most stringent, requiring a consumer warning for the presence of even minuscule amounts of common chemicals and naturally occurring elements, far stricter than federal requirements. Prop 65 sets a base level of up to one thousand times lower than safe exposure amounts. This often causes a discrepancy between warnings on products sold in California and elsewhere. The products are not different; it's just that Prop 65 warnings are required for sales to California consumers.

Why don't some products have a Prop 65 label even if we know they contain contaminants?

According to Prop 65, any small company (fewer than 10 employees) is not required to place a label on their products even if they contain contaminants. This is one of the reasons many people are unsatisfied with Prop 65's inconsistencies. Hypothetically, a small company could have high amounts of contaminates in their products and not have to place warning labels whereas larger companies are required to place a warning label regardless of even negligible amount of contaminants.

 

References

"Prop 65 News and Articles." Prop 65 News. Web. 03 June 2015. <http://prop65news.com/>.

"The Truth About Herbal Medicine Warning Labels." Chiron Health and Wellness. Web. 03 June 2015. <http://www.chironhealthandwellness.com/herbal-supplement-warning-labels-proposition-65/>.

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