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Lead In Dietary Supplements

by Sue McKinney August 22, 2020 3 min read

Lead In Dietary Supplements

Last week members of the Natural Products Association met with legislators in California to discuss two hot topics: Prop 65 reform and GMO labeling. Proposition 65 was originally enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The Proposition was intended by its authors to protect California citizens and the State’s drinking water sources from carcinogenic chemicals, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals. Over the years, it has been recognized that improvements are needed to further the original purpose of the initiative, and to curb abusive litigation. 

In February 2013, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 227 to counter abuse of Prop 65. The California Assembly voted 71-0 in favor of the Prop 65 reforms contained in the Gatto Bill, which has now gone to the Senate where additional amendments may be proposed to further improve the law. Governor Brown supports Prop 65 reform and has a working group reviewing additional recommendations to counter abuses of the law.

Part of the discussion concerns the levels of lead in Dietary Supplements. Among NPA’s experts invited to meet with the Governor and legislators to shed light on the issues was Michael Mooney, the Director of Research and Education for SuperNutrition. This multi-generation California family company has been producing the highest quality scientifically validated multi-vitamin-herbal products for 37 years. To assist legislators and informed citizens to better understand the issues, Mooney authored a well referenced White Paper on “The Truth About Lead in Dietary Supplements & Proposition 65.”  Just click on the link to access the paper in its entirety.  Mooney has a gift for expressing complex scientific data in common sense terms.

Additional well researched and clearly written White Papers authored by Mooney consist of “articles that could change your point of view” on a wide range of subjects can be found on the company’s website,

To introduce his summation on “The Truth about Lead In Dietary Supplements and Proposition 65” Mooney included a cover letter for the legislators illustrating the absurdity of restricting lead in vitamin capsules to 0.5 micrograms when servings of common organic vegetables contain over 7 micrograms of lead, and the FDA allows 10 micrograms of lead in a medium sized drug capsule. The cover letter is reproduced in its entirety below. 

The Truth About Lead in Dietary Supplements & Proposition 65

May 7, 2013 from KPCC, Southern California Public Radio

Gov. Jerry Brown has directed the state’s Environmental Protection Agency to work towards reforming Proposition 65, a law passed a quarter-century ago that aims to protect Californians from harmful chemicals.

California EPA Secretary Matt Rodriguez says the reforms will combat “shakedown” lawsuits. Proposition 65 enables private lawyers to bring claims against businesses that knowingly expose the public to toxic chemicals identified under state law. Lawyers have filed such claims more than 2000 times since 2008; critics say in some cases the suits are motivated by a desire to make a quick buck; rather than address a public health threat.”

Proposition 65 appears to protect consumers from toxins, but the limit set for lead in dietary supplements, 0.5 mcg, is so low that it is unrealistic.

Any dietary supplement that has a significant amount of herbs or green-foods will contain more lead than 0.5 mcg, even if the product is all-organic because all botanicals draw some lead up from the soil they feed on.

A four-ounce cup of fresh, boiled organic Brussels sprouts contains 7.9 mcg of lead.

Four ounces of fresh-baked organic sweet potato contains 7.2 mcg of lead.

The human body can handle much higher amounts of lead with no problems, because it has adapted to lead being found basically everywhere, in food, water and even air.

When you read the document that follows this, please note how small servings of common foods have many, many times more lead than 0.5 mcg.

Also note that the FDA’s standard for lead safety includes FDA allowing a medium-sized pharmaceutical drug tablet to contain as much as 10 mcg of lead because the FDA finds no safety concern with that much lead.

For these reasons, Proposition 65 should be amended to account for what is realistic regarding the amount of toxins, such as lead, that are allowed.

As the standard is written now, with 0.5 mcg of lead per saily serving being the limit, Proposition 65 has caused tremendous harm to ethical dietary supplement manufacturers and cost millions of dollars in legal fees as well as great amounts of wasted time.

One suggestion is that Proposition 65 harmonizes with FDA’s national standards for limits on toxins.


Michael Mooney

Director of Research and Education



CONTINUE TO LINK:  “The Truth About Lead in Dietary Supplements & Proposition 65.”

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