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California Mulls Adding Pain Killer to Prop 65 Dangerous Chemicals List

Posted on January 28, 2020 by Lauren Scott

California regulators are reviewing a proposal that would add acetaminophen to their Proposition 65 list of chemicals believed to cause cancer or reproductive complications. This is only the most recent of several high-profile considerations, which has included alcoholic drinks and coffee.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) examined 133 peer-reviewed studies about the potential risks of the pain killer and found mixed results. Some studies reported an increased risk of some cancers, while others did not. OEHHA also noted that it was difficult to isolate carcinogenic effects of acetaminophen from other risk factors like smoking and/or drinking.

A public hearing is scheduled for this spring as part of OEHHA’s review process to see if acetaminophen should be added to Prop 65.

What is Proposition 65?

To protect California’s drinking water sources from chemicals that have potential to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm, California enacted the Safe Drinking and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Also known as Proposition 65, or Prop 65, this legislation includes a diverse list of chemicals found in personal goods, food, drugs, or pesticides. The list is updated annually and now includes over 1,000 chemicals.

The proposition requires companies that use these substances in their products to notify consumers about the potential hazards posed by these substances. These businesses must also monitor and control chemical discharges to sources of drinking water. Manufacturers that fail to adhere to these regulations can be fined as much as $2,500 per violation per day.

Why Add Acetaminophen to the Prop 65 List?

Acetaminophen, known outside the US as paracetamol, is the active ingredient in many common over-the-counter pain killers. This analgesic can be used to treat fever and mild to moderate pain when adhering to the recommended dosage.

The drug was last evaluated for carcinogenic effects in 1990 and 1999 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Both times, research findings were inconclusive.

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