Depending on where you live, you may receive a health warning when purchasing some hardware components online for your computer. Is this something you should be worried about or not? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post discusses one such incident to help answer a curious reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Photo courtesy of Nic Mcphee (Flickr).

The Question

SuperUser reader Shawn Eary wants to know if S-Video cables cause cancer:

I was ordering parts from an online retailer and received a warning stating that some of the products were known (by the state of California) to cause cancer.

Unsure which product had triggered the warning, I called the retailer on the phone. According to them, it was the S-Video cable. Sure enough, the warning went away when I removed the S-Video cable from the cart.

Then I tried adding several other S-Video cables from different companies. All of the S-Video cables I picked seemed to trigger the cancer warning.

Is there something in most S-Video cables that causes cancer?

Do S-Video cables cause cancer?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors Zeiss Ikon and Alex Atkinson have the answer for us. First up, Zeiss Ikon:

Solder that contains lead is the most likely source of the “known to cause cancer or other reproductive harm” warning. Electronics assembled in Europe or for sale in the European Union are made with lead-free solder by law, but in the United States and most of Asia, the cheaper and easier to use tin-lead solders still rule. Do not eat the connectors, wash your hands after handling if the insulating plastic is broken, and you will be fine.

By the way, it is not just S-Video cables. You should find this warning for any product with solder in it that is not made for European Union compliance.

Followed by the answer from Alex Atkinson:

The state of California has much stricter laws on potential carcinogens than the rest of the United States. The warning just means that there are some chemicals in the product that may cause cancer in some specific situations. You would likely have to eat the thing.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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