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California Considers Declaring Common Pain Killer Carcinogen   

By Elaine Nalikka Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local
Painkillers like Tylenol contain acetaminophen, the drug the CIC argues puts users at risk of developing cancer.


If you live in California, you may soon find a warning label on your Tylenol: acetaminophen, a drug found in Tylenol, Excedrine, Sudafed, Robitussin and Theraflu, is under review to join a government list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.
The implementation of a California state law, Proposition 65, has lead California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard (OEHHA) and California’s governor to have a duty to warn people of any chemical known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.  The law was approved by voters in 1986 and requires the California government to maintain a public list of chemicals known to be harmful enough to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

In 2011, a panel of scientists approved by the California governor voted to make acetaminophen a priority for consideration. The panel’s, called the Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC), purpose is to identify chemicals that have been clearly shown through scientifically valid testing to cause cancer, pursuant to California Health & Safety Code § 25249.8.The scientists appointed to the committee come from a range different backgrounds in the sciences, from pathology to epidemiology, and meet at least once a year go through a three step process to determine if a chemical should be added to the government list. After 9 years, the process is currently only just completing step 1 for acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen has been available without a prescription since 1955 to be used for pain and fever. Researchers have previously noted that acetaminophen has several pharmacological properties that suggest it could be carcinogenic in human beings. It has been reported that the committee reviewed 133 published peer review studies researching acetaminophen’s relationship to cancer. Some of these studies allegedly reported an increased risk of some types of cancers, some did not.

Critics say the Proposition 65 law causes California regulators to be “overzealous“, since the state has a list of 900 chemicals, more than any other state. Supporters of the legislation say Proposition 65 protects consumers nationwide by compelling manufactures to make products safer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was reported to have warned state officials that labeling acetaminophen as cancer-causing would be illegal under federal law.

The OEHHA’s tweet announcing the public comment period for the inclusion of acetaminophen on Proposition 65’s listing.

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There has been an public comment submission page about the inclusion of acetaminophen on the OEHHA website since November 29th. The public comment period is scheduled to end on January 27th. The panel is scheduled to have a meeting about the drug following the end of it’s public comment period next week.

Elaine Nalikka
passionate about criminal law and writing.

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