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California’s Proposition 65: What you need to know

californias proposition 65

For those of you who are unfamiliar with California’s Proposition 65 regulations, the legislation that was passed in California “requires all businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm” which enables Californians to make more informed decisions and reduce chemical exposure when purchasing products for their home and workplaces. Whether you live in California or not, the chemicals listed are a cause for concern and should be avoided as much as possible.

According to the California Proposition 65 website, the legislation…

  • Prohibits California businesses from knowingly discharging the listed chemicals into sources of drinking water.
  • Requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Updated once per year, the list contains approximately 900 chemicals.
  • By law, the warning must be noted on products, unless there is no risk or the risk is far below the levels that could potentially cause reproductive harm or birth defects.
  • If a warning is present on a product, the business is aware or believes they are exposing the consumer to at least one (or more) of the harmful chemicals listed.

Here’s where it gets a bit SKETCHY… Businesses that sell products nationwide, only have to list the warning on products SOLD IN California. Therefore, if you live in Illinois and purchase the exact same product, you may assume the product is safe, when in reality it contains the same harmful chemicals.

Young children may be particularly susceptible to chemicals due to the fact that many of these chemicals are not illegal, even in children’s products, and because children often crawl on the floor and regularly mouth objects.

What chemicals should I be aware of?

All of the chemicals listed are important to be aware of in their own way and all can cause harm to our bodies and our children. Below are some of the most common chemicals to be aware of and ways you can protect your family.

Concern: cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm.
Found in: tobacco smoke, canned goods, certain cereal, baked snacks, fried foods, bread crust, crackers, and cookies. Formed when frying, roasting, grilling, or baking. Boiling and steaming do not cause the formation of this chemical. The higher the frying temperature, the higher the amount of acrylamide.

Arsenic (Inorganic)
Concern: cancer (specially lung, bladder and skin), birth defects, and reproductive harm.
Found in: tobacco smoke, some pressure treated wood, some herbal medicine, drinking water, crops, soil, and seafood.

Bisphenol A (BPA)
Concern: female reproductive harm including effects on ovaries and eggs.
Found in: canned linings; paper receipts; plastic water bottles, utensils, plates, and kettles; plastics with recycle codes 3, 7, or PC; PVC and Vinyl.

Concern: cancer including leukemia, reproductive harm, and birth defects.
Found in: tobacco smoke, petroleum products, gasoline, exhaust, and emissions. Used to manufacture: plastics, chemicals, dyes, drugs, insecticides, rubber and more.

Cadmium and Cadmium Compounds
Concern: cancer (specially lung, prostate, and kidney), reproductive harm, and birth defects.
Found in: cigarette and tobacco smoke, nickel-cadmium batteries, welding materials, inexpensive metal jewelry, shellfish, and small amounts have been found in crops and water.

Concern: cause cancer including leukemia and cancers of the nose, throat, and sinuses.
Found in: resins (urea-formaldhye) which can be present in Composite Wood (particle board, plywood, and fiberboard/MDF), flooring, shelves, doors, insulation, paints, hair products, tobacco smoke, permanent press clothing, linens, upholstery, gas stoves and car exhaust.

Lead and Lead Compounds
Concern: cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm, affect brain development, cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems. It has also been linked to Alzheimer’s in some studies.
Found in: homes older than 1978 (generally, but can be found in new homes too), consumer goods including some pottery, crystal glasses, ceramics, purses, toys, garden hoses, jewelry, cosmetics, brass, lead-acid batteries, fishing weights, some candies, spices and supplements, drinking water delivered through lead pipes, tobacco smoke, soil, and bullets. Paint and gasoline can also contain lead although the allowable amounts have been removed or limited.

Mercury and Mercury Compounds
Concern: cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm, affect brain development, cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems.
Found in: certain fish and seafood, silver dental fillings, fluorescent lights (CFL bulbs), some skin creams for aging, lightening or acne and some supplements.

Chemicals that are added to plastics that make them flexible. The following phthalates are cause for concern as they may increase cancer risk, affect child development and cause reproductive harm.

  • BBP (Butyl benzyl phthalate)
  • DBP (Di-n-butyl phthalate)
  • DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate)
  • DIDP (Di-isodecyl phthalate)
  • DINP (Diisononyl phthalate)
  • DnHP (Di-n-hexyl phthalate)

The following products may contain these phthatates: some plastic lunchboxes, binders, backpacks, rain wear, purses, belts, footwear, PVC or vinyl products, plastic shower curtains, bath mats, garden hoses, tubing, perfumes, fragrances, nail polish, adhesives paints, plastic food packing, feeding tubes and medical devices.

Flame Retardants and Chlorinated Tris
Concern: flame retardants including chlorinated tris are known to cause cancer, reproductive harm, and developmental harm among many causes.
Found in: polyurethane foam,cushions, couches, textile coatings, camping tents, and some children products containing polyurethane foam which may include strollers, bassinets, pillows, mats, and toys to name a few. Once Chlorinated Tris is released from a product, it can be found on floors, furniture, in the air, and on any surface surrounding the product.

Look for the following labels under cushion covers and on the back of furniture:
TB 117-2013  (sold after January 2015) products marked as “contain NO added flame retardant chemicals” do not contain significant levels of flame retardants. These are the ones you should try to purchase. TB 117  (sold prior to 2015) products labeled as so are more likely to contain flame retardants.

Here’s how you can reduce your exposure to these chemicals…

  1. Do not smoke. Do not smoke around children or allow them to be exposed to smoke.
  2. Wash all fabrics before use.
  3. Open windows or use an air purifier during painting and when purchasing new formaldehyde containing furniture.
  4. Store in glass or stainless steel containers.
  5. NEVER microwave plastics.
  6. Avoid washing plastic in the dishwasher.
  7. Use a glass bottles instead of plastic when bottle feeding your baby.
  8. Use glass or stainless steel water bottles rather than plastic.
  9. Choose products made from cotton, wool, natural latex, or made with untreated polyurethane foam. 
  10. Look for “Not Treated with Flame Retardants” or “Not Flame Resistant”.
  11. Replace crumbling or torn furniture and children’s products that contain foam.
  12. Avoid carpet padding made from recycled polyurethane foam.
  13. Wash your child’s hands and your hands prior to eating and preparing meals.
  14. Dust regularly with a wet cloth.
  15. Vacuum often with a HEPA filter.
  16. Wash floors regularly.
  17. Do not idle cars in garages.
  18. Maintain cooler temperatures as formaldehyde is released when it is hot and humid.
  19. Choose true solid wood furniture or stainless steel or choose a lower formaldehyde releasing product labeled as California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase 2 compliant, Ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde (ULEF), No-added urea formaldehyde (NAUF) or No-added formaldehyde (NAF).
  20. Avoid furniture made with urea-formaldehyde resins that does not carry a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase 2 compliant label.
  21. Buy used. Formaldehyde “off-gasses” overtime.
  22. Avoid pressure-treated wood.
  23. Apply a latex paint or formaldehyde blocking paint.
  24. Eat more fresh food rather than canned, if possible.
  25. Limit consumption of fried and grilled foods.
  26. Use alternatives to rice-based foods in your child’s diet.
  27. Soaking & Cooking Potatoes: Soak raw potato slices in water for 15-30 minutes before frying or roasting. Cook to golden yellow color rather than golden brown. Do not store raw potatoes in the fridge.

More information on California’s Proposition 65

  1. Complete up-to-date Proposition 65 List of Chemicals
  2. Fact Sheets include tips on how you can reduce your exposure to the specific chemicals listed.
  3. Petroleum product warnings.
  4. Learn how chemicals are added to the list.

Full Disclaimer and Disclosure here.

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