I got a Toshiba port replicator today, and packed in the box was a small slip of yellow paper with tiny print that read:

WARNING: Handling the cord on this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproducive harm. Wash hands after handling.

One way or another, this is stupid. Either there actually is a risk of harm, and why does the manufacturer make the power cords that way, or there is not, and why put alarming notices in our faces?

tagged: » 21 reactions

Comments

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andrew 12:41 PM on 12 Jan 2006

One word: lawyers.

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steve minutillo 1:41 PM on 12 Jan 2006

They have some strange laws in California. I swear, every single building in that crazy state I've ever entered has one of these right by the door.

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infidel 2:18 PM on 12 Jan 2006

All of the Christmas lights we bought a few years ago had this same warning on them. All were made in China. I don't know if there's any correlation to be made there or not.

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Damien Katz 2:34 PM on 12 Jan 2006

My guess is its due to lead in the solder, which is cheaper and easier to work with than non-lead based solders.

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Bob 2:47 PM on 12 Jan 2006

Funny, I recently unpacked a Toshiba port replicator and read the same little yellow notice slip. Ridiculous. It along with all of the other legally-mandated documentation about dangers of misusing electronics go right into the recycle bin at home. I'm not sure if I should be worried about lead content in power cords or not. By implication do all power cords contain lead? If not, why this one? And why not just put all sorts of noxious chemicals in power cords as long as you can just include a disclaimer?

WARNING: Handling the cord on this product will expose you to arsenic, asbestos, mercury, depleted uranium as well as some sticky stuff that we're not really sure about. Washing your hands won't help, but if it makes you feel better, go right ahead. And don't even think about saying that we didn't warn you.

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val 3:11 PM on 12 Jan 2006

Yes, I saw this warning on Nikon power cables when I bought a D70 a year ago. Freaked me out -- I handle power cables all the time! I imagine this is more important for kids than adults -- kids are disproportionately affected by heavy-metal poisoning.

I don't think it's about the solder. A quick Google on "lead power cable warning" turns this up:

http://bwcecom.belden.com/Sales/Quality/Prop65QA_NEMA.pdf

The intro sez it's about chemicals "found in the surface contact layer of covered wire and cable". For lead, the threshold is 0.03%, or 300 parts per million.

The paper is quite readable -- tho it only talks about what companies have to do to warn users, and nothing about the actual risks.

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Dave 4:54 PM on 12 Jan 2006

I only noticed these warning labels when I put up Christmas lights on the tree this year. (googling) Apparently PVC, which is probably what your cord is made from, commonly contains lead:

PVC has the special problem of forming HCl (Hydrochloric Acid) when it degrades, which causes a chain reaction which proceeds rapidly to complete loss of strength (and causes damage to manufacturing equipment). The stabilizers for PVC have thus mostly been metal salts, which could react with the HCl. These have included Lead, Cadmium, Barium, Calcium, Zinc, and organic Tin compounds.


Source: http://www.turnertoys.com/pvc9printable.htm

Bill Bryson in A Short History of Nearly Everything has a great chapter entitled 'Getting the Lead Out' which goes into fascinating detail on the misadventures of commercial lead uses. Highly recommended reading.

Cheers,

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lee davis 2:34 PM on 16 Jan 2006

maybe you have just started noticing these labels. The Prop 69 and similar warnings are all over California. Virtually every garage has a prop 69 warning since garages tend to attact cars which currently tend to bring CO, CO2, fuel, MTBEs. Fry's starting having these in their store IIRC about a year ago. They are so common that if there were a more dangerous than usual building, I am not sure I would notice it

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cwb 8:15 PM on 21 Jun 2008

yesterday i bought a computer mouse from the dollor store and a lable on it said that it had lead in it it was freaking me out if i touch in i might get cancer

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Diane 10:45 PM on 13 Oct 2008

Is lead dangerous in power cords, should we buy ones without lead?

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Jess 1:26 AM on 27 Dec 2008

I just got a new camera.I had to go and read the notices section on the user guide! It says, "handling the cord on this product will expose you to lead." How is this possible?

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Jack 12:06 PM on 5 Jan 2009

After seeing this warning on my Christmas tree this year I searched around for some answers. It sounds like lead is used in the PVC coating of all power cords. I'm in the IT business so I handle power cords all the time so this really was a shock to me. I've also found warnings to wear gloves when handling and to wash before eating after handling. CNN did a spot on this last year and found alarming high levels of lead on Christmas lights. I think it's scary but what to do, I still digesting the information.

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Christine 10:39 AM on 9 Jan 2009

I bought a $50 mushroom lamp yesterday from a toystore. Made in China. But I had to have it.
Same warning on that lamp (actually, with the addition of a CANCER warning).
I called IKEA - they guaranteed their lamp chords don't contain any lead. Maybe because IKEA sells nothing with PVC??

I also called Home Depot - the guy said he would return any item that says 'wash your hands after use'. He found this very suspicious.

Thanks for all your postings - they made me feel less crazy. Although I'm even more confused now.

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hmmm 4:55 PM on 12 Jul 2010

This is just a legal CYA on the part of manufacturers. These power cords have contained lead since our grandparents were kids. How many of our parents or grandparents came down with cancer because of the power cords? Probably nothing to worry about.

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tom paine 8:52 PM on 15 Jul 2010

This is concerning. I just opened my Toshiba AC adapter which I had shipped to me, and found the same warning. Why didn't Toshiba warn me about it before I ordered it? And on the flip side, if it's a CYA, why does no one seem to no for sure? I find the lack of information about this, along with the potential risk, very disconcerting.

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Melissa Ioannidis 8:58 PM on 8 Aug 2010

I just bought a toshiba laptop with the warning buried inside of the manual. I would have NEVER bought it had I known this. They have the stupid cord right on the right side of the computer where you will always touch it. I may be a little nutty for worrying about it but I think it is a valid concern. If it wasn't, why would they write it? I am wishing I would have sprung for a Dell!

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Mike Butler 8:24 PM on 30 Nov 2010

In response to: hmmm 4:55 PM on 12 Jul 2010

We don't know how many people came down with cancer because of lead in various household products. It's hard to say what causes cancer, but is quite evident that cancer is on the rise. There's no reason to believe that this rise in cancer rates is not being caused by our exposure to dangerous chemicals and materials on a daily basis.

My coworker is convinced that he came down with testicular cancer because he wore baggy jeans and would always keep his cell phone in his pocket. Just because this is just an opinion that is not proven, does that automatically mean that it is not true? Someone's Grandpa out there might have loved chewing on power cords as a kid and then eventually got cancer. They sure can't prove it was lead in power cords, but I would say that it doesn't rule out the possibility.

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Mike Butler 8:28 PM on 30 Nov 2010

One more thing... to "hmmm": My response was based on my assumption that you were being rhetorical when stating that question. If you were sincerely asking how many parents and grandparents have come down with cancer from power cords, then I apologize and state that I have no idea.

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jason 7:09 PM on 17 Dec 2010

I first noticed this label on my cell phone charger about three years ago. Every cord/charger I have touched since also has it. Not a big deal since no one uses devices that require chargers anymore, right.

The following site was very informative, and it at least addresses the issue of risk, near the bottom under the heading "Labelling requirements/Carcinogenicity and exposure." It appears inhalation and ingestion are the modes of exposure you should be concerned with, including trace amounts left after handling, then transferred to the mouth.

Are we expected to trust that soap and water will remove it?

There are also details on the law that led to these labels, and other information about how lead is used in cords and what you can do to "limit" risks.

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/cancer-warning-labels-based-on-californias-proposition-65

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I have something to share 2:27 AM on 27 Jan 2011

Fuck it! everything causes cancer

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Julia Hindle 6:54 PM on 7 Feb 2014

Anyone out there from Consumer Reports with some input regarding this issue?

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