CEH Study Claims that Lead in Candies and Purses Dropped Thanks to Prop 65 Enforcement


The Oakland based Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has released a new report that the implementation of California’s Proposition 65 labeling law for toxic chemicals has resulted to a significant reduction in the amount of lead tested in certain colorful purses and candies.

In 2004, hazardous levels of lead were found in almost 50% of the chili and tamarind candies sold in California. Five years later, it dropped to only 3% after the CEH and California’s Department of Justice filed lawsuits against the manufacturers.

Meanwhile, a study in 2009 reported that lead-tainted pigment was found in about a third of faux-leather wallets, purses, and handbags sold in California and online. CEH sued the manufacturers and by 2016 the purses and handbags that were lead-tainted dropped to 8 percent.

Caroline Cox, a senior scientist at CEH and lead author of the report said that the results “show that Prop 65 and other similar state laws are an effective way of encouraging companies to make safer products.”

A Prop 65 warning is required for lead, a highly toxic chemical for young children, especially babies. Lead exposure can cause irreversible brain and nervous system damage. If a pregnant woman touches a lead-tainted purse there’s a possibility that the toxic metal can poison the unborn baby.

In 2009, the Orange County Register found dangerous levels of lead in candies for children that were imported from Mexico. The latest study shows that manufacturers have reduced lead contamination.

Prop. 65 had been criticized as a burdensome law to businesses which also confuses and creates pointless fear among consumers. However, the new report shows that the law is actually working to lessen people’s exposure to harmful substances.

Margaret Handley, a University of California San Francisco professor of epidemiology and biostatistics said the study is limited only to candies and purses and does not include other food, candies, and consumer products.  Her own research shows the opposite results because the number of lead contamination health alerts for those products increased.

Handley said that lead has also been found in food and candies imported from other countries, not only Mexico as well as from food brought in by family and friends from abroad.

She recommended that the state and local health departments come up with a more coordinated way of finding the sources of lead poisoning and warn people about them.

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