Do I need to worry about California Prop 65 warnings?

If you’re purchasing cosmetic grade ingredients from reputable suppliers, no, you do not need to worry about Prop 65 warnings.

You might’ve seen warnings like this when shopping for ingredients:

“This product may contain trace levels of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm: … ”

Prop 65 warnings call out the potential for certain ingredients/compound to be present, regardless of concentration, dosage, risk, and actual presence of the compound. This makes those warnings sound a lot more scary than they are.

From Prop 65: Disneyland Is Bad for Your Health?:

Prop 65’s dire and dramatic warning on coffee, for example, is based on the ubiquitous presence of acrylamide, found in almost everything cooked at high temperatures. No study has ever determined coffee to be carcinogenic to humans. In fact, a 2018 statement from FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb stated clearly: “Although acrylamide at high doses has been linked to cancer in animals, and coffee contains acrylamide, current science indicates that consuming coffee poses no significant risk of cancer.”

From The New York Times:

The Prop 65 label is like a noisy alarm that rings equally loudly about smaller amounts of low-risk substances and huge amounts of potentially harmful chemicals. The labels don’t say how much of the chemical is present, or how much it would really take to make a person sick. You could get the same alarming label on potato chips (acrylamide), chemotherapy (uracil mustard), lumber (wood dust), or toxic runoff (arsenic). It’s obviously helpful to be alerted to the presence of potentially harmful chemicals. But not all doses of these different chemicals mean the same thing.

Imagine if a warning label accompanied every risk you took on a regular basis, from driving on the freeway to baking gel nail polish under UV light. Fear is powerful, but it should be commensurate with the danger, and the Prop 65 label tends to equalize risk in a way that actually might actively harm people’s ability to judge danger.

TKB Trading has a great FAQ on Prop 65 warnings that you can read here.

If you’re worried about a chemical that is called out in a warning, I recommend starting your research at What is the safe level? Then compare that with the data sheet for the ingredient; it will almost certainly comply (I’ve never found one that doesn’t). After that, consider the concentration that you’re likely to use that ingredient at.

For example: The concern usually brought up in regard PEGs is the potential contamination with 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane is NOT an ingredient in PEGs. Think of it a bit like M. bovis (a bacterial species of the M. tuberculosis complex); this is not an ingredient in milk, it’s a potential contaminant, and steps are taken to reduce that contaminant, which is why we generally do not worry about contracting tuberculosis from milk anymore.

1,4-dioxane a well-known potential contaminant, and the industry works hard to reduce that contamination as much as possible. The European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concluded “1,4-dioxane amounts in cosmetic products are considered safe for consumers at trace levels of ≤10 ppm”. By checking the data sheet, you can see that the Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate sold by Lotion Crafter is declared to comply with this—and on top of that, you wouldn’t be applying that ingredient directly to the skin, so anything you’d actually encounter would be even less concentrated.

Posted in: Safety