The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

What’s the Deal with Cancer Warnings on Knives?

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If you bought a knife in the past, you probably noticed the inclusion of a sticker or piece of paper that says something along the lines of “WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

Don’t be alarmed. You’re not going to get cancer or cause birth defects if you use and carry the knife regularly.

This warning, which can be found on knives from companies like Buck and Schrade, is the result of California’s Proposition 65. Way back in 1986, California voters passed an initiative aimed at reducing the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water. For the most part, the proposition was successful, but there were some downsides.

Part of Prop 65 prohibits businesses from knowingly exposing individuals to select substances without providing a clear and reasonable warning. That’s fine in theory—who wouldn’t want to know if there are cancer-causing chemicals in things. The only problem is that the substances on the list are pretty much present in everything.

That’s where our little label comes into the picture.

Even though this is a California regulation, many manufacturers include the warning in all of their packages because they aren’t always 100 percent sure the item will not be sold to a resident of California through dealers.

This issue was addressed over at Blade Forums by Joe Houser, director of consumer relations at Buck. Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote:

Our products are no different now than they were 30 years ago; but, because Buck Knives wants to continue to be a responsible manufacturer and continue to do the right thing, we have decided to include the warning label on our product packaging. Examples of things that have one or more of the items on California’s list are; brass, all brass contains lead and always has; stainless steel contains chromium. Both lead and chromium are on California’s list.

I’d recommend reading his whole response if you have a second.

So what’s on this dastardly list of harmful substances? You can see the full list of Prop 65 substances here, but it includes everything from the very bad like mustard gas and DDT to the mundane like aspirin and potassium bromide (which is used in Germany to treat seizures).

But the two main substances on the list that affect knives, as Houser wrote, are chromium and lead. Chromium is found in stainless steel and increases wear resistance and corrosion resistance. It’s actually the ingredient that makes a steel a stainless steel. Lead is found in brass.

That means if you happen to buy a knife with chromium or lead, you may see this warning, depending on the manufacturer.

As a resident of California, I just saw this cancer warning inside a Panda Express restaurant and it didn’t phase me, so don’t stress when the warning is included with your knife.

28 Comments

  1. That would be a bit of a shock for anyone buying a knife as a present for a family member for Christmas. Imagine the look on your loved ones face after they’ve unwrapped the Christmas paper, opened the box & lift out the knife you’ve bought for them & then see the “Cancer Chemicals” sticker. Merry Christmas Dad, you can ignore the Cancer sticker, honest lol.

    I thought it was just the UK that went OTT, looks like we’re not the only ones.

  2. I want to know says about it.

  3. I want to know what cold steel has to say about the csn warning sticker!

  4. So sifting away the mumbo-jumbo and double-talk,are you at risk if you own this knife or not????

  5. Everything causes cancer these days. Buy what you want and enjoy using it. Life is too short to worry about knives and California’s Prop 65.

  6. California is the dumbest state in the history of states.

  7. The warning is only required for exposure levels that actually cause harm in use or in the enviroment say after disposal. By adding the warning you are saying that people are exposed to these harmful levels. I would have thought that we are not eating the knife in enough amounts for it to exceed the exposure level, but I’m not an expert. However such a thing was found with Aluminium pans as steel utensils scrapped it off, and these are no longer available (in pure form) so we need to be careful, these laws are there for a reason and need to be taken seriously. Perhaps you need to relook at whether you need the warning or not, maybe rephrasing if its just a disposal issue, try asking a professional lab.

    • Considering that skin does absorb lead or any other harmful chemical very easy. It is not surprising that a knife would have a label like these. Plus the fact that people sharpen blades all the time; chemical on your hands you may eat with sometime in your life; washing your hands places chemical in the water supply.

      Making everyone commenting or think it is safe…well, I’m sure “those” people chain smoke and think they are health nuts lol

    • You are a hysterical hand-wringing fool.

      Please use your new “known to cause cancer” knife to cut your balls off, so your foolish genes will not contaminate another generation.

    • Our society is so over exposed to warnings that we have become numb to them. The testing of the CD siren, warning labels on cigarettes, the mile long warning labels in the prescription drugs, etc., etc., have become so prevalent that no one really would know if something really harmful came along. I am not saying that this was not a decent idea to start out with but P65 went too far. My grandfather used hand-tools all his life and never got cancer. He lived to 92 and died of a weak heart from get this… old age. This warning label was on a wrench I bought at Lowes that was made by Kobalt. I believe people are more likely to die from being stabbed by a knife than to get cancer from lead or chromium in the product. Just saying.

  8. Well, it *is* a relief. Pardon my naïveté – – I thought it had something to do with the handle(s). I bought a huge amount of knives from Cutlery Corner (yeah, sucker for an info-mercial) & over 1/2 of their packages contain the P65/Cali warning label.

    I thought; how can they get away with selling something with known carcinogens? How can I, in good conscience – – sell these to people in my own community having this knowledge?

    Now that I know it’s not something that could potentially leach out of the handles & since we use Stainless Steel (sometimes Brass as well) every single day, I’m quite o.k. with selling them now &/or using them as barter items in a S.H.T.F. scenario.

    Hell, I never even knew Buck had the warning on it’s packaging & I’ve had many of their knives since I was a 10-y.o. (Their 110 was my E.D.C. for a long old time.) I’m sure my knew Schrade SCHF9N won’t cause me cancer per se’, but it may lop-off one of my digits L.o.L. Peace y’all!

  9. Bewildered Customer

    November 20, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I don’t understand how someone may write something like this on one’s product without providing any kind of explanation of what caused it.
    It’s insane.

    The mere fact that there’s a super-ominous warning about cancer and birth defects without any information regarding why it’s here, what materials of the product may cause cancer and in what way and if there are special handling pre-cautions that can be taken to avoid the danger makes me lose trust in the producer and assume the worst – for example shitty plastic handles that will leak chemicals through skin that will cause damage even in low amounts.

    My first suspicion when seeing that kind of stuff is smelly plastics.

    I simply don’t understand how producer can just leave the buyer looking at the warning, without any info to make a decision whenever to disregard the warning or take some special precautions when using the product or just don’t buy the product.

    Not bothering to list what exact chemicals it applies to and not bothering to even write any explanation shows complete disregard to safety and expecting users to disregard safety.

  10. I work retail in M.A. At an army surplus store these warnings are now on everything my latest shipment of chippawa work boots has this tag on every pair i agree the people say u cant just place that tag on there without specifing what actually causes cancer also yes every customer that takes the two min to read about the overly expensive boot they are about to buy sees that tag first almost instantly rightfully discouraging theyr purchase these are overly safe times everyone uses self phones and its statisticly proven they cause brain damage and cancer but try telling that to apple samsung or any pf the millenials checking face book 400 hundred times a day

  11. I thought so. I was just curious as to the ‘ why ‘ of these labels. Thank you for the clarity of information.

  12. The reason they put it on there is not because of potential exposure or any real risk at all – they are just covering their asses.

    Rather than have every product tested (probably prohibitively expensive) manufacturers of all kinds of products just slap the label on everything they make.

    I’ve seen them on mugs, t-shirts, knives, all sorts of household goods, shoes etc.

    The manufacturers do this because it is the easy way out. If they didn’t put the label on their products and it turned out that the product did in fact contain a minute amount of one of the chemicals on the list, they wpuld be sued out od existence.

    Far safer to just put the label on everything, knowing that their customers are perfectly aware that it doesn’t mean anything.

    Another pointless piece of leftist bureaucracy rendered meaningless.

    • They use teflon, teflon is toxic, specifically to the reproductive system. it is no different than a warning on cigarettes, its there for a reason.

      I for one would like to be informed before I purchased.

  13. It’s the steel….

    I was looking for polyoxymethyleen cause of the delrin used in a schrade sharpfinger. Delrin is made by dupont, a compagnie that creates a lot of different chemical materials that often produce cancer inducing fumes when created. Their name seems to go parallel with cancer. But no…. It’s the chrome in the steel. I am sure to handle my high chromium wrenches with rubber gloves in the future (wink.) Good to know that the lethal side of the iron is still the pointy end and not the materials within the steel itself.

  14. Don’t be alarmed we have been slowly poisoning you for the last 30 years. Please keep giving us your money don’t worry about our shoddy business deals.

    Instead of telling people not to listen to the warning, which I’m pretty sure is illegal, how about you find a way not to use toxic chemicals in the making of your knives.

  15. Buck knives..USA made.. MAY cause cancer and/or cuts in lab rats or lab children , so dont give one to them or a much ,much,much,much,much much,much,much,much,much quicker death if swallowed or anally inserted..

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