|In 2010, Washington banned BPA from children's plastic food and beverage containers and sports bottles.|
|The Children's Safe Products Act was passed in 2008. It is a comprehensive policy requiring manufacturers to report their use of the worst-of-the-worst chemicals. The law also bans cadmium and phthalates. In 2013, manufacturers began to report chemical use which showed that over 5,000 children's products contain toxic chemicals.|
|In 2007, the state banned all products containing PBDEs and banned decaBDE from mattresses and residential furniture.|
|To see what bills are in play in Washington State this year, please check out our Current Session Bill Tracker.|
When you buy your kid a sparkly new necklace, you should only have to worry about whether they'll like the style. But it turns out you need to be worried about something elsetoxic metals.
We are disappointed to learn today that a new investigation uncovered nearly 25% of Walmart jewelry tested contained high levels of lead. As we all know, this isn't safe. Lead is a toxin that adversely affects brain development in children and affects the nervous system. It's one of the worst-of-the-worst chemicals: it builds up in humans and the environment, it does great harm, and it stays around for a very long time.
Our partner Washington Toxics Coalition tested 24 jewelry products purchased at a Washington state Walmart store, and found eight of them contained high levels of lead. Six of the items tested contained more than 10% lead (100,000 ppm), with one containing almost 36% lead (357,770 ppm). This is over one thousand times the federal standard for lead in children's products (100 ppm)
This jewelry apparently doesn't violate the law because Walmart has labeled the jewelry as not intended for children. But this doesn't mean that it doesn't end up in kids' hands or mouths. The jewelry tested had designs that would easily appeal to children, and were hung on low display racks that are easily reached by children. And really, do any of us need lead in our jewelry? Mothers know that children often grab and suck on mother's necklaces or bracelets. Lead has no business in any jewelry.
And beyond the concern for consumers, workers who stock shelves, unload shipments, and run the registers at Walmart are all coming into contact with these products that contain high levels of lead.
"I'm concerned about the impact this lead exposure is having on my fellow associates and me, not to mention all of the families who shop at Walmart," Esmeralda Uvalle, OUR Walmart member and 10-year associate with the Mt.Vernon, WA Supercenter.
This finding is especially disappointing on the heels of Walmart's widely reported declaration a few weeks ago that it would be phasing out 10 (unnamed) toxic chemicals from its store's shelves. As this testing shows, there is a long road ahead, and we hope that Walmart will take immediate steps to remove these products from the shelves.
"Walmart should act swiftly to get the lead out of all the jewelry it sells," said Sarah Doll, National Director of Safer States. "This is a great example of why we need smart state and federal laws which ensure corporations do the right thing and get harmful chemicals out of products."
Advocating for safer chemicals in the states can be a tough fight. Often states are up against big money, opponents who don't play fair, and messy politics. But we are still winning. In fact, policies that protect communities from toxic chemicals have been enacted in over 34 states. And those wins have led to protections well beyond the borders of those states.
A few weeks ago, the Center for Pubic Integrity released a jaw-dropping report on the American Chemistry Council's lobbying activities in the states. Backed by a $100 million annual budget, the chemical industry's lobby had their fingers in just about every state legislature considering policy to regulate toxic chemicals this year.
So yes, there can be big money against us, which can make for a harrowing path to victory at times. But states, backed by consumer demand, are continuing to win. Here are some recent highlights from the states:
- Vermont passed the first-ever ban on two forms of toxic Tris flame retardants in home furniture.
- Minnesota passed the first-ever ban on formaldehyde in children's personal care products, and also passed a ban on BPA in children's food packaging.
- Maine overcame massive ACC influence to ban BPA in baby food containers, after identifying safer alternatives to the hormone disrupter.
- Washington required product manufacturers to reveal the toxic chemicals in more than 5,000 children's products.
- Nevada adopted a ban on BPA in baby food and infant formula containers.
- California is on the verge of adopting new regulations to require companies to identify safer chemicals and materials for use in consumer products.
These victories, some small and some big, are creating a safer world. They require companies to stop using harmful chemicals. And they send a message to the marketplace that toxic chemicals aren't welcome, no matter how much industry pushesand it's a message companies are starting to hear.
As we've seen before, wins in one state can encourage other states to adopt their own versions of these policies. And once there is a critical mass of state victories, the federal government starts to take notice and take action. We wouldn't have a federal phase out of Deca-BDE flame retardants, or a FDA ban on BPA in baby bottles, without strong precedents from the states.
Of course state health advocates have lost state legislative fights this year too. But those states are coming back in 2014 stronger than ever, determined to protect public health. Ultimately, the state drumbeat, backed by citizen demand, will drown out ACC and their allies, and we'll have safer chemicals for our kids and our world.
Comprehensive laws do heavy lifting in the States.
When policymakers want to get harmful chemicals out of everyday, household products, they often face a choice: either to attack the chemicals one by one with specific bans, or take a more comprehensive approach with programs that identify chemicals of high concern, require disclosure of chemicals in products, and find safer alternatives to harmful chemicals. Because the latter approach has farther-reaching effects on a whole system, we refer to those bills as comprehensive policy.
We've talked a lot about single chemical bans, from BPA to flame retardants to cadmium. The laser focus of these bans are immediate and effective. They are often the best resource we have to get a harmful chemical out of products quickly. However, sometimes once a chemical is banned, it can be replaced by something new that is equally toxic, leading to a dangerous chemical whack-a-mole game.
This is where comprehensive policies have an advantage. Most comprehensive laws allow state agencies to continually evaluate new chemicals as they crop up, and allow states to bend and flex to new chemicals as they arrive on the scene. By codifying large lists of concerning chemicals, or coming up with evaluation procedures, or requiring manufacturers to let consumers and agencies know when their products change, comprehensive policies have the range and flexibility to offer protections that evolve as times and products change. And thankfully, they're gaining some ground.
Maine's Kid-Safe Products Act
In 2008, Maine passed the Kid-Safe Products Act, a comprehensive chemical reform bill taking on toxic chemicals in products intended for children under the age of three. The law outlined a several year strategy. The first step was to identify a list of chemicals of concern. Using established scientific criteria, in 2011, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection published a list of over 1,300 Chemicals of Concern, and designated 49 of them as chemicals of highest concern. This list is the first step in increasing public protection. Further protection comes when consumers and policymakers can know what chemicals are in certain consumer products. That's where another part of the Maine law steps in.
The chemical industry has long said that all of the chemicals in our household products are totally safeand anyone who believes otherwise is being ridiculously extreme. In fact, they're just silly chemophobes!
But we here at SAFER aren't motivated by baseless extremism or irrational fearswe're motivated by scientific data. And today, the numbers are in.
Thanks to groundbreaking legislation in Washington State, makers of kids' products have to report when they have chemicals that have been flagged as dangerous. And the data have been staggering.
Over 5,000 kids' products in Washington contain toxic chemicals everything from cadmium to phthalates to flame retardants. And these chemicals are in products with trusted labelseverything from Walmart to the Gap to H&M.
We applaud the manufacturers for reporting these chemicals in Washingtonand the other states that are considering similar legislation to address the products sold in their state. We're still working for a federal solution to move these toxic chemicals out of kids' products for good. But for now, we're happy to have the data on hand, so consumers can see what's in their products. Because our concern isn't about extremism or irrationalityit's about the toxic facts.
In the absence of strong legislation, finding out about toxics in products can be something of a do-it-yourself endeavor. Consumers depend on voluntary disclosures and their own sleuthing.
Unfortunately, all of the parents who rushed out to purchase these toxic-free products learned a hard lesson. According to data filed under Washington State's new disclosure law, Graco's kids products contain tetrabromobisphenol A, or TBBPA, a toxic flame retardant.
TBBPA is categorized as a persistent, bioacccumulative, and toxic chemical (PBT), has been shown to effect thyroid hormone activity, and may effect nervous system function as well.
Click through the web site belonging to the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and you'll read about dedication to providing Americans with creative and fun toys. And really, what's more fun than toys? But behind TIA's seemingly positive face lies a more nefarious goal: laser-focused dedication to the bottom line of the companies it represents, at the cost of the health of children. We have heard from organizations throughout the country who say that TIA lobbyists show up at state hearings, opposing rules that would give the public a true insight into the chemicals that are in toys.
Much like the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the TIA wields hundreds of thousands dollars in some states trying to defeat bills and policies which would protect the public from toxic chemicals like bisphenol-a (BPA), formaldehyde, cadmium and phthalates in our children's most prized possessions: toys. Children sleep with toys, put them in their mouths and even put them in their food. And sometimes those toys contain chemicals that can negatively affect children's cognitive function and development, skin and respiratory systems, and can increase the risk of cancer later in life.
Seven manufacturers reluctantly disclosed that the chemical BPA is present in 280 plastic toys, in the first chemical use reports submitted under Maine's Kid Safe Products Act, a chemical safety law bitterly opposed by the toy industry (pdf). BPA disrupts hormones in the body, harms brain development and reproductive health and may contribute to obesity and diabetes. Because of growing concern about threats to healthy childhood development, BPA has been removed from virtually all baby bottles and formula can linings. Why then is it OK that BPA is present in the toys that the children pick up once they put down their baby bottles?
Lead, arsenic, cadmium, formaldehyde, mercury. These are some of the toxic ingredients that are found in products that we put on our skin, in our hair, and on our lips that ultimately make it into our bodies where they can wreak havoc with endocrine systems, neural development, reproductive systems and contribute to higher levels of cancer.
These ingredients are unreported and hard to track, even for the most scrupulous consumer. Annie Leonard, who produced The Story of Cosmetics in partnership with The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said it best: "It turns out the important decisions don't happen when I choose to take a product off the shelf. They happen when companies and governments decide what should be put on the shelves."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees regulations governing cosmetics. However, regulation is a term used loosely, as manufacturers can use nearly every chemical and ingredient, man-made or natural, in a cosmetic without approval from the FDA.1
Recent reports show that toxic chemicals are found in every corner of our lives. They are being found in everything from foam in children's products to household cleaners and canned foods. This month, we rounded up some of the most significant studies from our partner organizations. These studies outline the ubiquity of toxic chemicals, and point the way toward solutions.
Fortunately, not all the news is bad. It was discovered that some products don't contain the worst-of-the-worst toxic chemicals, proving that it is possible to create these products with safer alternatives.
And when The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics announced that Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo still contains a harmful, formaldehyde-releasing chemical, the pressure of the news caused Johnson & Johnson to finally agree to remove it. While getting a harmful chemical out of a baby shampoo shouldn't require such action, it is encouraging to see forward motion away from toxic chemicals in some situations.
Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States
Hidden Hazards in the Nursery (pdf)
Many nursery items contain toxic Tris flame retardants.
In a study released today by the Washington Toxics Coalition and SAFER states we learn that many foam products in children's nurseries contain high levels of toxic flame retardants. These chemicals are associated with health concerns such as lower birth weights, changes in thyroid hormone levels which affect critical metabolic functions, and lower IQ in children.
As we discussed on this site in September, the world of chemical flame retardants is an alphabet soup of names and chemical mixtures. As quickly as some chemicals are being banned, the chemical industry is creating new combinations which skirt the rules.
Washington Toxics Coalition in partnership with Safer States purchased foam-containing baby and children's items from major retailers in six states. They sent samples of the foam to a Duke University research laboratory for testing.
The study found:
- Chlorinated Tris (TDCPP) was present in 16 of 20 products. TDCPP is the chemical that was voluntarily removed from children's pajamas in the 1970s because of health concerns.
- The level of flame retardants in products was high. The 17 products that contained toxic flame retardants had an average of 3.9% by foam weight.
- These flame retardants are not chemically bound to the foam, which means that they escape from the products and get into the air and household dust, endangering the health of all in the home.
The real key to banning toxic flame retardants is a comprehensive policy which identifies the worst-of-the-worst chemicals, and sets in place a plan for phase-out in favor of safer alternatives. The states have seen that using the laser-focus of an individual chemical ban hand-in-hand with sweeping comprehensive policy is the most effective way to reduce toxic exposure to adults and little ones alike. Several states will be taking up the charge of toxic flame retardants this year, following in the footsteps of states like New York, which banned TCEP, a toxic Tris flame retardant, in 2011.
It's no secret that the United States is battling overwhelming issues with obesity. Current statistics show that 34% of Americans are clinically obese, and 68% are overweight1, and the federal government has found that a third of American children are obese or overweight.
This is having a tremendous consequence on the nation as a whole, including an estimated economic cost of $270 billion per year in the United States, according to a report2 released this year. The costs come in need for medical care and the loss of worker productivity due to death and disability.
So, as a society, we are tackling obesity in all the expected ways. We are encouraging adults and children alike to eat less, eat better, move more, and to live healthy lifestyles. We are reevaluating school lunch programs, insisting that fast food restaurants provide healthy options, and encouraging healthy decisions at every juncture.
But what if some chemicals we were exposed to every day were making us fat? Enter obesogens. Science has recently uncovered that exposure to certain chemicals sets the stage for obesity.
Updated October 13, 2011
Toxic flame retardants are one of the most common sources of toxicity in our homes and our lives. They are used on everything from computer casings, to furniture, to carpeting, to children's products. "The problem is, they don't stay put," says Rebecca Williams, a reporter for The Environment Report1. "They leach out of products and they get into us."
Health concerns surrounding these chemicals—including everything from cancer to thyroid issues to reproductive harm—are serious enough that many groups including fire professionals are interested in getting toxic flame retardants out of our daily lives.
From a letter2 released by the International Association of Fire Fighters:
"Many studies involving fire fighters exposed to these and other toxic gases during active fire fighting, overhaul, and long term exposure from these chemicals penetrating protective gear, have found that fire fighters have a much greater risk of contracting cancer, heart and lung disease, and other debilitating diseases. While we support the concept of flame retardant chemicals, there are [safer] alternatives."
When we talk about toxic flame retardants on Safer States, we are referring to a whole group of chemicals that are used on household products for the purposes of slowing down combustion. Unlike some chemicals (cadmium, for example), the concern isn't with a specific single chemical. Instead, we reference a group of chemicals intended for a single purpose, nearly all of which have been shown to have harmful effects on children, fire fighters, fish and wildlife.