A common over-the-counter pain reliever may be classified as a carcinogen in California thanks to a state law designed to protect and warn consumers about possible cancer-causing chemicals.
Under California state law, Proposition 65, (Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986), consumers must be informed of any chemical that is known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Since Prop 65 was passed more than thirty years ago, the list has grown to include around 900 chemicals that range from pesticides, to flame retardants and aerosols. Now, state regulators are looking at whether acetaminophen, which is found in common pain-relief medications like Tylenol, Exedrin, and Midol, should be added to the list.
While acetaminophen has been available without a prescription since 1955, state regulators have reviewed 133 studies about the pain-relief drug, some of which reported various types of cancers as a risk of taking the drug. High doses of acetaminophen has been linked to liver damage in other studies, however, the review concluded that "acetaminophen has been difficult to examine because it is hard to isolate it from other variables that could contribute to cancer, such as smoking."
In the spring, a panel appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom will conduct a public hearing in order that will determine whether acetaminophen should be added to the state's Prop 65 list of chemicals that could pose a cancer risk.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has informed state officials that labeling acetaminophen as cancer-causing would be “false and misleading” and also illegal under federal law.
Photo: Getty Images