California's Proposition 65 Warning Labels
You may have seen this warning on your supplements:
WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California
to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
In 1986, the people of California approved an initiative to help people make informed decisions concerning exposure to certain dangerous chemicals. Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (or simply Prop 65) requires the State to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. This list, updated annually, now includes over 800 chemicals. Some of these chemicals are found in foods and supplements, as well as common products like household cleaners and beauty and body care products.
Prop 65 also requires companies to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to a listed chemical. Signs are posted, for example, in enclosed parking garages (toxic gasoline and diesel exhaust) or in beautifully landscaped parks (pesticides/herbicides). In addition, the warnings are sometimes so vague as to be unhelpful. While Prop 65 is a worthy concept, in reality it can be confusing—especially for non-Californians—since many manufacturers find it logistically and financially difficult to have two sets of product labels. Thus confusion may arise when Prop 65 labels are seen on store shelves outside The Golden State.
Should I Be Worried?
Some toxins are unavoidable in our modern world: fossil fuel combustion creates acid rain; vehicle and factory emissions foul the air; food is sprayed with poison; prescriptions flushed down toilets end up in drinking water. Some drugs are actually on the Prop 65 list: lovastatin, Warfarin (coumadin), ACE inhibitors, codeine phosphate, barbiturates, benzodiazepines and some antibiotics. There are endogenous substances on Prop 65’s list, too: testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, for example, as well as chemicals that occur naturally in food: caffeic acid (coffee), safrole (sassafrass, basil and black pepper) and acetaldehyde (coffee, bread, ripe fruit and metabolized by the liver from ethanol/alcohol) which may be consumed on a daily basis. We do have cause for concern, to be sure. But what about supplements? Are they safe?
Lead, arsenic, mercury and other heavy metals may be the reason for Prop 65 warnings on supplements. Although these minerals occur naturally in soil, higher levels and/or more toxic forms can result from industrial, agricultural and other kinds of pollution. While everything grown outdoors is subject to toxic assault, even in the best of conditions, trustworthy supplement manufacturers will source raw materials from the cleanest farms available. In addition, they comply with industry standards known as Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMP, and test for identity, purity, potency and for limits on contamination. The best manufacturers will let a product go long-term-out-of-stock rather than accept inferior or contaminated raw materials. In addition, purity assays for specific batches obtained from the manufacturer or via The International Fish Oil Standards Program can help put your mind at ease.
Be Cautiously Optimistic!
It is important to note that “a product does not have to contain a level of the substance that represents an actual risk to trigger a Prop 65 warning” according to the American Herbal Products website. “Thus, because of Prop 65’s stringent warning thresholds, a warning may be required ... even if no one would ever be harmed ...” (See the AHP website for more details, you may be surprised.)
Consider that the real issue here is the totality of our toxic exposure — our body burden. We live in a world where glyphosate is found in breast milk and urine and even umbilical cord blood contains toxins. But you can help protect yourself and your family by eating organic and/or non-GMO foods; by drinking filtered water; by turning off your car engine rather than idling; by supporting legislation to promote a cleaner environment; and by supporting companies using sustainable practices. Liver support, antioxidants and an occasional cleanse might also be helpful.
Evergreen carries products from many companies that use organic botanicals and/or are certified sustainable: Flora, Gaia, Garden of Life, HerbPharm, Himalaya, Metagenics, Natural Factors, New Chapter, Nordic Naturals and Standard Process are just a few options on our shelves (there are too many to list here). If you have any concerns or questions about the safety of the products we sell, please don’t hesitate to ask. If we don’t know the answer, we will do our best to find out. We appreciate your business and value your trust in us and our products.
The information provided here is for educational purposes only. None of the research or evidence presented here is intended as a substitute for consulting an appropriate healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you believe that you may have a disease condition, please consult your healthcare practitioner before using this or any other dietary supplement.
Although we do our best to keep this website current, always check the product label for the most up-to-date information since product changes may not be immediately updated on our website. Feel free to contact us if you notice any discrepancies. Thank you.