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October 29, 2008

On cancer warnings and MIDI-making

Posted: 12:00 PM ET

Have you ever seen a small label on electronic devices, glassware, or other products that warns you about chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and reproductive harm?

A warning label says you should wash your hands after using this MIDI device, but the company says don't worry.

I recently discovered this warning on my MIDI interface, a small device that has cables connecting my keyboard to my laptop so I can record and edit the music that I play.

(Side note: MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and refers to the protocol that allows instruments and computers to communicate. If you own a computer and a musical keyboard, I highly recommend you try connecting them and playing with a program such as Apple's GarageBand. The program, coupled with the keyboard, allows your keyboard to take on the sounds of dozens of instruments, from "orchestral strings" to "Fiji afterglow.")

Great, but I didn't want playing "Falling Slowly" using "tula bass" sounds to give me cancer. So, I called the maker of the MIDI interface device, and found out that the warning is required by California law for products sold in California that contain more than a minimum amount of particular substances, such as lead. But, according to the company, M-Audio, I shouldn't worry about getting toxic chemicals on my hands.

What's inside a product with a warning label? Read more on "Paging Dr. Gupta."

–Elizabeth Landau, Health Writer/Producer,

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Filed under: computers • Materials

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seanb   October 29th, 2008 12:19 pm ET

Yeah, i hate these warnings. They're on everything. The companies have 2 options. They can put the warning on all of the products, or they can create 2 products. One with the warning for californian markets, and the other for everybody else who doesn't believe that EVERYTHING CAUSES CANCER.

Franko   October 29th, 2008 12:20 pm ET

"Are Plastic Bottles Bad for You?
You May Be Swilling More than Water"

Midi interfaces are safe to touch, but do not swallow;
Even safer is the computer keyboard, with lots of mustard ?

Tom   October 30th, 2008 1:46 am ET

It kills me when they slap all these warnings on everything nowadays. Think back to when you were a kid, they didn't have all these warnings on your G.I. Joe's. Like you are to stupid to realize the toys have small parts in them. What started all of this is the hug-a-tree hippies who are all out to save the world when in fact the world needs to cull the population of the stupid and ignorant. Simply put, it seems like the more people stress over trying to avoid getting cancer the more likely they will get it.

Lisa   October 30th, 2008 8:35 am ET

The fact remains that all of the carcinogenic constitutents are released at some point, whether the obsolete product is disposed illegally, in the landfill (where it will infect other garbage) or someone in another country is tearing it apart for recyclable use (highly unlikely for this product).

At any rate manufacturers who are making millions off of these disposable products owe safety to all of us, and to our environment. A push for outlawing the worst has resulted in bans on products such as DDT and PCBs, but the production of new, untested chemicals (about 200 annually) is mind boggling. Anyone with an interest in this topic should search for "green chemistry.".

Larian LeQuella   October 30th, 2008 9:27 am ET

Sadly, these labels are becoming so pervasive that they lose all effectiveness. Of course, if we could actually trust organizations such as the FDA to do their job correctly... Well, I'm sure that's a story for another blog.

Gary Stinchcomb   October 30th, 2008 11:55 am ET

That's an interesting question but even more so is the blatant advertisement for Apple's Garage Band. Does Elizabeth Landau get paid by Apple for product placement?
Please, next time just ask the question.

Richard Wilms   October 30th, 2008 11:55 am ET

These things don't come with enough warnings. I have just been diagnosed with fatty cell cancer on my leg. I used my laptop sitting right on my lap. The cancer is located right where the processor was located. I have to believe the people who believe there is a link between cell phones and brain cancer are right. Wish I could find someone who was investigating such issues.

Franko   October 30th, 2008 12:23 pm ET

Ingesting platics is not a good idea, impairs brain development.
Touching plastic Midi keyboards, Not even with rubber gloves ?

Shaking head in disbelief   October 30th, 2008 1:33 pm ET

OK, so a MIDI interface is an electrical device subject to the same guidelines as other electrical devices. WHERE IS THE NEWS? C'MON CNN! THIS DOES NOT DESERVE AIR TIME!

Linda, Los Angeles   October 30th, 2008 4:13 pm ET

The warnings are required due to lawsuits. However, if you stop to think about it, we are surrounded by poisons in our environment. The Midi may amount to nothing; however, taken in conjunction with your other computer equipmt ie printer (with toner), household cleaning agents, poisons inside the walls etc of your home and on and on and on, it all adds up. For one user, the Midi could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. We all have these kinds of choices to make. It is a fact: the more modern we have become, the more toxic the environment in which we live. Any way we can minimize environmental toxics will help us individually and collectively.

Fred   October 30th, 2008 4:42 pm ET

Given that this midi product is neither food nor a drug, it wouldn't come under the FDA's jurisdiction to evaluate. Maybe some consumer product safety group, private or public, would be concerned. Otherwise, I do agree that more rubust investigations should take place for new products.

Franko   October 30th, 2008 10:11 pm ET

Black Cats need White Labels with Beepers, to warn careless mice.

Richard Wilms;
"I have to believe the people who believe there is a link between cell phones and brain cancer are right"

Not just a very slight microwave heating of your brain, but also;
Short term memory loss is proven.
Do not use a cellphone, after cramming, before writing a test
Caffene, Cranberry, or Blueberry is helpful.

Forgetting the one who rejected you,
A bottle of vine, not a cellphone, is best by test
Tony Starks, with all the smarts, still uses cell phones ?

TheOther   November 8th, 2008 8:53 pm ET

I always took those labels to mean that I would only get cancer from the device in California, and as long as I stayed away from there, I would be fine.

....known to cause cancer in the state of California.....

Franko   November 9th, 2008 6:48 am ET

One effect enhances another.
Vitamins produce good results - sometimes
Undernourished longer - or quick cancer tumor growth

Touch the plastic on your cellphone,
While texting and eating chicken ?
DNA transferred theraphy, via cell phone microwave and plastic

Craig   November 10th, 2008 4:28 pm ET

This is only partially because of enviro-hippies. A lot of it also has to do with everyone being sued for everything because thye do not want to accept personal responsibility for their choices and want to blame someone else because it's easier, and often there are monetary rewards.

sw   November 11th, 2008 1:10 am ET

It's not just becasue of law suit craziness.
Everything we buy is from China and they have zero quality control when it comes to toxins in their products.

Franko   November 12th, 2008 9:48 am ET

Testing on cell cultures, to see if produces pre-cancerous effects
Cannot always scale to multi-cell organisms; False positives ?   April 19th, 2011 8:43 am ET

On cancer warnings and midi making.. I like it 🙂

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