Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why California's Prop 65 is worse than useless

Prop 65 is the notorious piece of California legislation that results in labels on countless products saying, "This product contains chemicals known to the state of California," etc. It's been criticized -- accurately, I think -- for casting too wide of a net, and therefore winding up crying wolf more than actually educating consumers about possible hazards.

But I think the really awful thing about it is that it doesn't require the companies to list what chemicals specifically triggered the Prop 65 warning.

My son got a model train set from the grandparents for Christmas, and it's got a Prop 65 warning, which has my wife spooked. I explained to her that, generally speaking, "known to the State of California to cause cancer" is a meaningless statement. But she wants to know exactly what the chemicals are, so she can make her own decision. And I can't tell her.

Most likely, it has something to do with the plastics, in which case "Don't let baby Griffy eat the trains" is plenty of precaution. But maybe it is the lubricants used on the track? In which case then maybe the really cautious approach would have my son washing his hands after using the train set.

I dunno, it's just frustrating. It is not right to go around scaremongering without explaining yourself.


  1. Absolutely agreed. Insanely frustrating that if one wants to air on the side of caution, they must investigate the materials used in a product that rings the prop 65 bell, and then essentially hazard a "best guess" as to what the offending compound might be. This is an arduous task even for the small demograph of consumers benefiting from a good education... And even then the likelihood of a positive ID is no sure thing. Circus legislation written by clowns. The kernel of the idea is sound, but the execution is intentionally poor. Seems as if the corporate lobbyists failed to kill the bill, but succeeded in making the application of it useless.

  2. The State of California contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, other reproductive harms, and brain damage that results in Prop 65's passage.

  3. It is ironic that in order to pass through a TSA checkpoint at California Airports you are warned in accordance with Prop 65. Again though, without more specific information, nobody is (or should, really) take Prop 65 seriously.