Understanding Lead and PCB Warnings on Nutritional Supplements

By Ashley Watson

perna-proIf you use DaVinci® Laboratories products, you may have noticed a warning on the label that reads, “This product contains lead, a chemical known to the State of CA to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm.” Or you may have seen a similar statement about PCBs. DaVinci® Labs does not intentionally add these chemicals to any of our products, but our sales reps get calls daily about these warnings and why we would add these chemicals.

The simple answer is that we decided to add these warnings due to a law passed in California in 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65. Read on to learn more about this law and our warnings.

Formally titled, “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986,” Proposition 65 sought to prevent businesses from exposing consumers to certain toxins without providing a warning. Lead and PCBs were two such toxins. Products distributed within the State of California intended for human consumption are tested for Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, and Cadmium.

Many of these chemicals are naturally occurring (such as the heavy metals listed previously) and DaVinci® errs on the side of caution by testing for these heavy metals in our human products. Many chemicals on the Proposition 65 list are subject to “safe harbor limits,” which means that there is a specified level of each individual chemical, subject to a “safe harbor” limit, which is permissible in a product without including the proposition 65 warning on a product.

healthy-foodsPCBs are associated with marine-derived products, such as fish oil. For PCB warnings, there is no safe harbor level associated with reproductive health; in other words, any level of PCBs need bear a warning to this effect. The PCB warning is based on an established limit of 90 nanograms per day.

Two levels were also outlined for lead: Any foods or nutritional supplements that exceed 0.5 micrograms (a microgram is 1/1000 of a milligram) of lead per serving require warning labels that state. The document does not, however, specify “safe harbor” limits for other chemicals listed. Nor does it address that many of these chemicals are naturally occurring.

For example, almost all naturally occurring plant and food items contain some level of lead. A single sweet potato can include over 1 microgram per serving, and would therefore be required by California state law to bear a Proposition 65 warning. The World Health Organization (WHO) has established that it is permissible to allow 3.75 mcg of lead/kg of body weight per day, which multiplies the Proposition 65 limit 500 times over.

To state that products must be completely free of all proposition 65 chemicals is unfeasible. Any claim that a product does not contain any chemical on that list regardless of the concentration would require that product to be tested for every single chemical listed (currently over 800 chemicals). The test results would have to indicate that all chemicals were below the minimum level of detection for the specified test method.

green-lipped-musselYou will see that any formula that contains more than 0.5 mcg of lead per day has the Prop 65 warning on the label, and that any marine-derived product bears a similar PCB warning. While these warnings are not required for product sales in other states, we do sell products in California through large, national distributors.

We have therefore chosen to label all relevant products, regardless of final place of sale, in compliance with California state law. We feel that this effort will greatly reduce the burden of monitoring and tracking which specific bottles are shipped to California by our distributors and other customers, who ship nationwide.

We hope this helps explain why we have included these warnings on select products. Feel free to contact us if you have further questions.