What ‘Dangers’ Are Lurking on Your Thanksgiving Table?

California’s chemical warning law, known as Proposition 65, requires warning labels on any product containing a chemical on California’s list of substances that might cause cancer or reproductive problems. The list is huge, comprised of nearly 900 chemicals, and requires manufacturers and retailers to label products even when the risk of health problems is so small, it’s virtually non-existent.

So what “dangers” does California believe lurk on your Thanksgiving table?

Let’s start with the table cloth. Families prone to spills may opt for table linens or placemats made with easy-to-clean vinyl. These products are often made using types of phthalates, chemicals used to make vinyl more pliable.

Phthalates are a huge class of chemicals. Scientists have linked certain types of phthalates, known as “low molecular weight” phthalates, with various health problems. Through government action and industry initiatives, these types of phthalates are being phased out of many products.

In many cases, they’ve been replaced with “high molecular weight” phthalates, including diisonoyl phthalate (DINP). DINP is used to make vinyl gloves, flooring, fabric coatings, and many, many other applications. In 2013, California added DINP to theProposition 65 warning list as a suspected carcinogen.

Despite California’s concern, however, research suggests wearing vinyl gloves to stuff your turkey or eating it on a vinyl table cloth is very unlikely to raise your cancer risk.

California added DINP to the Proposition 65 warning list based on evidence that in very high doses, DINP can cause cancerous tumors in rats. But as prominent phthalate researcher Professor James Klauning, Ph.D., of Indiana University told California regulators, “it is my conclusion that the observed rodent liver tumors induced by DINP are not relevant to humans.”

The state is also out of step with other regulatory agencies around the globe. Both the European Chemicals Agency and Australian Department of Health and Ageing recently evaluated the vast volume of research on DINP and concluded the chemical is not a carcinogen at normal exposure levels.

DINP is far from the only misguided addition to California’s warning list.

Bread is a pretty important part of most Thanksgiving meals—soft buttery rolls are perfect for soaking up extra gravy. When bread is baked (or potatoes fried or coffee roasted), a chemical reaction creates acrylamide, a substance California considers a carcinogen.

While research shows high doses of acrylamide can cause tumors in rats and mice, dozens of studies examining acrylamide’s effect on humans have not found an increased risk of cancer.

The list of products posing little risk to our health—or even providing health benefits—that carry Proposition 65 warnings is virtually endless. From your glass of wine (which research suggests can have health benefits in moderate doses) to the aspirin you take to alleviate your in-law-induced headache (which already carries federally-required side effect notices), California wants you to believe that using these products might harm your health.