Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shopping Resource for Non-Toxic Products

A nonprofit environmental research organization released results today on over 900 common products tested for toxic chemicals including lead, cadmium, mercury, bromine, chlorine (PVC) and arsenic. Using an XRF analyzer, researchers at the Ecology Center analyzed the ingredients of pet products, cars, women's handbags, children's car seats and more, creating the largest database yet of independent tests of toxic chemicals in consumer goods.

The results can be found on the user-friendly website: Visitors can look up products by manufacturer, brand, or product type and easily generate lists of highly rated and poorly rated products. tested for chemicals based on their toxicity, persistence and tendency to build up in people and the environment. Such chemicals have been linked to reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, liver toxicity and cancer.

"The more we test, the more we find that the presence of toxic chemicals is widespread in everyday consumer products," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center, who created the site. "It should not be the responsibility of public health advocates to test these products. Product manufacturers and legislators must take the lead and replace dangerous substances with safe alternatives."

For the past several years the Ecology Center has spearheaded groundbreaking research on toxic chemicals in toys, cars and children's car seats at and is a compilation of all of these findings and more.

New Key Findings From

  • Pet Products – tested over 400 pet products, including beds, chew toys, collars and leashes. Since there are no government standards for hazardous chemicals in pet products, it is not surprising that alarming levels of toxic chemicals were found. One quarter of all pet products had detectable levels of lead, including seven percent with levels higher than 300 ppm – the current Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard for lead in children's products.

  • Automobiles – tested nearly 700 new and used vehicles, from 1980 to 2010 model year vehicles. The US-made Pontiac G5 and Chevy Cobalt rated best overall 2009 vehicles. Levels of some chemicals found in vehicles are 5-10 times higher than in homes or offices. Since the average American spends more than 1.5 hours in their car every day, this can be a major source of toxic chemical exposure.

  • Children's Car Seats – Infant and child car seats contain chemical additives that can have adverse health effects on babies and young children. Over half (58%) of car seats contain one or more hazardous chemicals, including PVC, BFRs and heavy metals. Three examples of car seats that had none of the chemicals tested for are: Baby Trend Flex-Loc; the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat; and the Graco Turbo Booster. Despite the toxic chemicals, it is vital to use a car seat for your child because they do save lives.

  • Back-to-School Products – screened over 60 common back-to-school supplies, including backpacks, pencil cases, binders and lunchboxes. Far too many of these supplies are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and 22% contained detectable levels of lead. Overall nearly 90% of back-to-school supplies contained one or more chemicals of concern.

  • Women's Handbags – tested over 100 women's handbags and detected lead in over 75% of the bags analyzed. Sixty-four percent (64%) of the bags contained lead over 300 ppm – the CPSC limit for lead in children's products. Over half of the handbags contain more than 1,000 ppm lead.

Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act

In response to increasing consumer demand for safer products, Senator Frank Lautenberg and Representative Bobby Rush are expected to introduce a new bill this Congressional session to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the current federal law for regulating chemicals. These reforms would phase out the most dangerous chemicals from the manufacturing process; require industry to take responsibility for the safety of their products; and use the best science to protect vulnerable groups. To date the EPA has required testing on only about 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals that have been on the market since the law was passed 33 years ago.

"A Made in the USA label should be a guarantee, not a warning," said Charlotte Brody, National Field Director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition working toward toxic chemical policy reform. "This database of products is further proof that our system of testing and regulating toxic chemicals is broken. We have an opportunity to reform federal law this year and start putting common sense limits on harmful chemicals to protect the health of Americans."

" is an invaluable resource for busy parents who are concerned about toxic chemicals in children's products," said Mom's Rising President Joan Blades. "But it shouldn't be up to parents to look up every single item to find out if toxic chemicals are used. We need reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act now."

For a summary of key findings, click here (PDF download).

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