California puts cancer warnings on more than 1,000 chemicals, foods, and places, including coffee and amusement parks - here's how worried you should be
In California, it seems you're never far from a reminder about cancer.
You can't park a car indoors or order a cup of coffee in the Golden State without seeing a warning about the various ways your cancer risk might spike.That's thanks to a state law that dates back to 1986, called Proposition 65, which was enacted to protect California's drinking water supply from toxic, potentially cancer-causing chemicals. But the law also mandates that the state keep a master list of all chemicals known to be toxins, and requires manufacturers and businesses to warn people about these chemicals if they're present in products or buildings (even in extremely small doses).
There are more than 1,000 chemicals on California's cancer-warning list, which grows every year. Some chemicals on the list have been proven to cause cancer, but not all. A chemical only needs to have a 1 in 100,000 chance of upping your risk for cancer in order to merit a written warning to consumers.
However, because the way cancer develops in the body is extremely complex, one's cancer risk isn't just about what we put in our mouths, cars, and lungs. Cancer has a lot to do with the genes in our body and our family history, too.
For those and other reasons, many Californians and cancer experts lament that the warnings, as written, aren't all that helpful.
As the American Cancer Society says on its website, "the Prop 65 labels only tell you that a product has something in it that might cause cancer or affect reproduction. They don't say what the substance is, where it is in the product, how you might be exposed to it, what the level of risk is, or how to reduce your exposure."
Here are a few of the strangest things that carry cancer warnings in California.