A TikTok video with more than 633,000 likes and more than 40,000 shares shows a shopper concerned about a Proposition 65 warning label on an air fryer.
The TikToker says she was shopping at Target and was told by a woman to be careful about what type of air fryer she buys because it could cause cancer and pointed her to a warning label.
“Look at this box. She says she has this one. And she returned it because, on the bottom of the box,” the TikToker says, pointing her phone at a Gourmia stainless steel digital air fryer box, “‘Warning: Cancer and reproductive harm.’ What? So we’re probably not getting any air fryer.”
VERIFY viewer Sherry asked us to look into this claim.
Does a Prop 65 label mean a product can cause cancer?
A Prop 65 label does not mean a product can or will cause cancer. In California, the labels are meant to better inform consumers that a product or place may contain certain chemicals that are on a list of potential cancer-causing agents released by the state.
WHAT WE FOUND
Proposition 65 (Prop 65) is a law in California that has been in place since 1986. It requires products, buildings and businesses in the state to include a label if they might contain any chemical that could cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, unless there is “no significant risk” of exposure.
“Exposure to these chemicals may take place when products are acquired or used. Exposure may also occur in homes, workplaces, or other environments in California. By requiring that this information be provided, Proposition 65 enables Californians to make informed decisions about their exposures to these chemicals,” the Prop 65 website says.
According to the Prop 65 website, the list of chemicals is updated at least once a year. It was last updated in February 2022 and has more than 900 chemicals on the list. Prop 65 labels are only required in California, but many companies put them on products sold in other states to avoid creating different packaging for different states.
The American Cancer Society says a label isn’t required if a chemical compound doesn’t pose a “significant risk.” The law defines “no significant risk” as a level of exposure that would cause no more than one extra case of cancer in 100,000 people over a 70-year lifetime. The law also has similarly strict cutoff levels for birth defects and reproductive harm.
But a Prop 65 label doesn’t mean the product will cause cancer. It just means it might contain one or more chemicals that could be harmful. It also isn’t limited to chemicals that are used to manufacture a product; it includes chemicals that could be released while a product is being used.
For example, acrylamide is a chemical on the list that is formed when certain plant-based foods are cooked or processed at high temperatures – like in an air fryer.
Appliances that use natural gas, such as some ranges, dryers, and hot water heaters, may emit benzene, carbon monoxide, or formaldehyde when in use, the Proposition 65 website says. Some flame retardants and phthalates may be present in plastic components of appliances. Therefore, these products also have warning labels.
Amusement parks are on the list of places that require Proposition 65 warning signs, even though “visiting an amusement park will not necessarily expose you to significant amounts of chemicals on the Proposition 65 list,” the website says. This photo shows a Proposition 65 sign at California’s Disneyland.
But carbon monoxide could be emitted from the amusement park rides, lead could be present in brass railings and tobacco smoke could be inhaled near designated smoking areas. This is why the warnings are required.
If you go to the dentist, you could be exposed to mercury used in dental fillings, or nitrous oxide. So, dental offices in California need Proposition 65 warnings.
“If a warning is placed on a product label or posted or distributed at a workplace, a business, or in rental housing, the business issuing the warning is aware or believes that it is exposing individuals to one or more listed chemicals,” the Proposition 65 website says.
Here are some places and products where Proposition 65 warnings are required in California:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Cannabis and THC products
- Diesel engine exhausts
- Furniture products
- Passenger and off-highway motor vehicles
- Petroleum products
- Recreational vessels
- Wood dust
- Amusement Parks
- Apartments and other residential rental properties
- Dental offices
- Designated smoking areas
- Enclosed parking facilities
- Service stations
- Vehicle-repair facilities
Gourmia, an appliance manufacturer and the air fryer brand seen in the viral TikTok video, told VERIFY in an email there are steep penalties for not complying with Proposition 65.
“Many of the elements listed under Proposition 65 have been routinely used in everyday consumer items for years without documented harm,” a Gourmia spokesperson told VERIFY.
“As a result of the steep penalties and because there is no penalty for providing an unnecessary warning, Gourmia like many other manufacturers have elected to provide the Proposition 65 notice out of an abundance of caution in order to avoid the potential for liability. As a socially responsible company, we ensure that our products are safe for use,” Gourmia said.