It’s always gratifying to see something you planted bearing fruit, isn’t it? That’s how we’re feeling at Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) these days. After being an instrumental part in passing Washington State’s landmark Children’s Safe Products Act (CSPA), as well as a toxics-in-packaging law, we’re beginning to see just what is in the children’s products and packaging we bring into our homes.
Under Washington’s CSPA, manufacturers of children’s products are required to report whether products they sell in Washington contain chemicals on a list of 66 Chemicals of High Concern to Children. Other states are working to replicate Washington’s program.
Thanks to Washington’s Department of Ecology (Ecology), consumers anywhere can find out what toxic chemicals were found in more than 200 children’s products, including clothing and shoes. Ecology tested these products distributed by retailers to see if their products are in compliance with the law.
The most shocking result was for a pair of baby shoes with orange soles and little brown plastic straps. The orange soles were tested at a whopping 44 percent phthalates!
Scientific evidence links phthalates to hormone disruption and other serious health problems. Phthalates are chemicals added to plastic to make it soft and pliable. The CSPA set limits in children’s products on six of the most commonly used phthalates and 44 percent phthalates in the little orange shoes is an amount grossly over state and federal limits for phthalates. This particular pair of baby shoes is designed for warm weather wear, so the high-phthalate soles could lay directly on baby’s skin for hours a day.
But that’s not all. Ecology’s testing also showed that:
Phthalates linked to hormone disruption and other health problems were found in some bath toys and children’s cosmetics, other footwear and fragrances marketed for children.
Phthalates were also found in very high levels in much of the plastic packaging that children’s products come in.
Hormone-disrupting parabens were found in many baby lotions, children’s lip glosses and lip balms, baby wipes and Halloween makeup.
Lead, which is known to cause neuro-developmental effects in children was found in children’s cosmetics, footwear, plastic jewelry and Halloween accessories.
Copper and zinc, which are toxic threats to Puget Sound, are found in many metal zippers, buttons and other metal parts of children’s clothing and packaging and in metal jewelry.
WTC applauds the Department of Ecology’s work and lauds our state’s Children’s Safe Products Act—our nation’s most comprehensive chemical reporting law. This law helps reveal to the public the extent to which toxic chemicals are used in the manufacture of children’s products. Before this law was passed, the public simply did not have this information.
But WTC believes these chemicals should not be in children’s products in the first place. Ecology’s reports only underscore the fact that we need stronger laws at the state and federal levels that require testing, restrict harmful chemicals and preserve state’s rights to regulate them.
Click here to see WTC’s report on testing we conducted on phthalates in fragrances marketed to tweens to gauge manufacturers’ compliance with the Children’s Safe Products Act. To see our two reports summarizing manufacturer reports on Chemicals of High Concern to Children under the Children’s Safe Products Act, click here and here.
If you’d like to see Ecology’s product testing reports, click here.
There you will see links to each report. You can also see the full reporting list of Chemicals of High Concern to Children, and a link to the database of reports manufacturers have made to Washington State under the Children’s Safe Products Act.
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By Gwen Ranniger
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1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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