Proposition 65: What are the risks to consumers?

Dr. Ravil Patel offers some advice
Posted at 11:18 AM, Aug 04, 2021

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — You’ve probably seen the signs about California's Proposition 65. It's on everything from signs for fast food restaurants to tags on clothing and warns about chemicals that cause cancer.

"An average individual when they look at a prop like that, they get very confused," said Dr. Ravil Patel, director of medical oncology and hematology at the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center.

What is Proposition 65?

Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. These chemicals can be in the products that Californians purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment. By requiring that this information be provided, Proposition 65 enables Californians to make informed decisions about their exposures to these chemicals.

Proposition 65 also prohibits California businesses from knowingly discharging significant amounts of listed chemicals into sources of drinking water.

Proposition 65 requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. This list, which must be updated at least once a year, has grown to include approximately 900 chemicals since it was first published in 1987.

Proposition 65 became law in November 1986, when California voters approved it by a 63-37 percent margin. The official name of Proposition 65 is the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

What types of chemicals are on the Proposition 65 list?

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 byproducts of chemical processes, such as motor vehicle exhaust.

California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

And while it was enacted in 1986 as a way to warn consumers of potentially harmful chemicals on their products. The list of chemicals is updated yearly. The most recent update was March bringing the total number of chemicals listed to more than 1,000. Recently, more labels have popped up on knock-off clothing items, but Dr. Patel says there's not much research on the impact of chemicals on clothing.

“I think that there has to be more and more data looked at that," said Dr. Patel.

Research shows chemicals can exist on cheaper items like toys and food packaging. Patel adding the three most common cancers are lung, breast, and colon.

“Environment has some impact on those cancers but a majority of the impact is lifestyle and what you eat ”

Kern County shopper Dariane Collins says her biggest concern is companies that create products that require the Prop. 65 warning label.

Dr. Patel has advice if you do decide to buy items with the Prop. 65 warning.

"So most importantly if you get the minimum exposure, you could have some issues but it’s repeated exposure that causes more damage.“

But he adds there are alternatives

“If you can get the same kind of clothes which don't have the warning label, get [those]."