Should you be worried about the Prop 65 warnings on almost everything?

OK, there comes a point where even a so-called “coastal elitist” says, enough.

The State of California mandates that a warning be placed on any device, any part, and in any location where any potentially cancer-causing material can exist. The warning was approved by voters in 1986 as Proposition 65, and that’s the name people generally use for them. But has it gone too far?

What does Prop 65 actually save you from?

There’s a ridiculously long list published by the California government here. It includes lead (used in solder on circuit boards), cadmium (used in some batteries) and lithium (used in the batteries that don’t contain cadmium.) Virtually any electronic device will have at least one of these materials. Period. There’s no getting around it.

Once you’re informed about these bad materials, you should know not to put them in your bodies or in the water. So, there you go.

What does it all mean?

It means, don’t put your electronics in water. I think you knew that.

It means, don’t eat or even lick your electronics. Again, pretty sure you knew that.

It also means, unfortunately, that pretty much everything in our modern world has the potential to cause cancer and poison the environment. Of course that’s a very bad thing and no one wants to have cancer or poison anything. But it does sort of seem that the Prop 65 warning itself isn’t going to stop that. It’s so common that it’s lost its meaning.

Prop 65 has done good things, to be sure. Increasing awareness of these toxic chemicals has led to cleaner air and water. That’s definitely good. I simply wonder if labeling every single electronic bit of everything with a Prop 65 warning is going to really make a difference now.

What is there to do?

Honestly, unless you’re planning on going Amish, there’s not a lot that you can to do avoid every single chemical on that list. You can try to be responsible, and you can try to support manufacturers that have responsible policies. When they break, you can recycle your used electronics instead of putting them in a landfill. You can decide not to put them in your mouth. But really, when it comes to trying to get away from a Proposition 65 warning, honestly you’re not going to get very far. You’ll find them all over everything you truly want to buy.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.