HealthyStuff.org

HealthyStuff.org Findings

HealthyStuff.org releases new test results for a variety of products throughout the year. This findings section highlights the latest set of test results and discusses overall trends and important findings for each set of products we test.

2013 End-of-the-Year 'Wrap up'

To wrap up 2013, HealthyStuff.org tested 117 products purchased from 9 national retailers (Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe's, CVS, Walgreens, Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., and Kroger). The products tested included children's accessories, household and home improvement products, and holiday themed decorations (lights, ornaments, and holiday beaded garlands). This winter screening joins a series of studies HealthyStuff.org has released in the past months showing how toxic chemicals continue to lurk in everyday consumer products.

Summary of findings:

  • Nearly one third of the products (38 of 117) contained levels of bromine above 400 ppm, suggesting the use of brominated flame retardants (BFRs). 13 of these products contained over 20% (above 20,000 ppm) of bromine by weight.
  • About 21% (24 of 117) of the products contained levels of lead above 100 ppm.
    • 21 of these 24 products were holiday beaded garlands, ornaments and other decorations.
    • The highest level of lead detected in this study was in a set of headphones purchased at Best Buy which had 335,528 ppm.
  • 38% of the products contained levels of chlorine above 3,500 ppm, suggesting the use of PVC or chlorinated flame retardants.
  • Six of our products contained levels of arsenic above 100 ppm. Two of these products were light fixtures, which contained levels of arsenic containing glass above 1,000 ppm.

2013 Children's Tablets

For this study, HealthyStuff.org tested four tablets; the VTech InnoTab 3, the Fuhu Nabi Jr., the LeapFrog LeapPad 2 Explorer and the Kurio touch 4S.

Summary of findings:

  • All tablets contained at least one or more chemicals of concern at detectable levels (40 ppm), including chemicals such as As, Br, Cl, Cr, Pb, Sb and Sn.
  • When the tablets were compared to a HealthyStuff.org 2012 study that examined the toxic chemicals in 38 mobile phones, the tablets tested 50% worse (more hazardous) then recent model mobile phones.
  • The LeapFrog LeapPad 2 Explorer and the Fuhu Nabi Jr. ranked as the least toxic tablets, with both scoring 3.9 in our 5.0 scale.
  • The Kurio touch 4 S scored 4.6 while the Vtech InnoTab3 scored 5.0.
  • The circuit board components of all four tablets had bromine levels above 10,000 parts per million, suggesting the use of brominated flame retardants. The highest level of bromine detected was 16,683 ppm found in a circuit board component of the Vtech InnoTab3 tablet.
  • The highest level of chlorine detected was 184,550 ppm in the battery of the Kurio touch 4S.
  • All tablets tested for this study contained multiple component samples that contained PVC and BFRs. For comparison, Apple and other electronic industry groups consider a material PVC-free and BFR-free if it contains less than 900 ppm for bromine and 900 ppm for chlorine (Apple 2011).

2013 Holiday Beaded Garlands

For this study, HealthyStuff.org purchased 19 holiday beaded garlands of various colors, shapes and lengths from 6 national retailers (CVS, Walgreens, Lowes, Home Depot, Target and Walmart). These holiday garlands were purchased in Michigan between October and November of 2013.

Summary of findings:

  • Over half of the products tested (56 of 87) had levels of lead above 100 ppm. For comparison purposes, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limits lead in children's product to 100 ppm.
  • More than half of the products tested (51 of 87) had levels of bromine above 400 ppm, suggesting the use of brominated flame retardants (BFRs).
  • 45% had BFR levels in the range of 1-2% by weight.
  • Electron microscope images of the beads show fragments of material that appear to be used as filler in the production of the beads. Many of these fragments have halogenated flame retardants in them, including:
    • decaBDE (decabromodiphenyl ether)
    • tetrabromobisphenol A(TBBPA)
  • About 63% (55 of 87) had levels of chlorine above 3,500 ppm, suggesting the use of either PVC or chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs).
  • The interior of Mardi Gras beads were tested and found to contain hazardous substances as high as the exterior coating of the beads.
  • A Mardi Gras football contained about 29% phthalates by weight, including Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (280,000 ppm), a phthalate banned by CPSC.

2013 Fall Product Screening

Healthystuff.org tested 143 consumer products, ranging from household, kitchen, outdoor and office supplies to exercise equipment, clothing and jewelry. These products were purchased from 11 national retailers including the Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., Dunham's Sports, Home Depot, K-Mart, Lowes, MC Sports, Target, Walgreens, Walmart, Claire's Stores, Inc., and Icing.

Summary of findings:

  • More than three quarters (115 of 143) of the products contained at least one or more chemicals of concern at detectable levels (>40 ppm).
  • One-third (47 of 143) had three or more chemicals of concern at detectable levels.
  • Halogenated plastics and flame retardants were found in large numbers of products:
    • About 46% (66 of 143) contained PVC or chlorinated flame retardants (chlorine above 3,500 ppm)
    • 9% (13 of 143) contained brominated flame retardants (bromine above 400 ppm)
  • Hazardous heavy metals were also found in these products:
    • 23% (33 of 143) had levels of antimony above 100 ppm
    • 36% (51 of 143) had levels of tin above 100 ppm
    • 7% (10 of 143) had levels of lead above 100 ppm

2013 Picnic Products Screening

HealthyStuff.org screened 58 common outdoor picnic products for substances that have been linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer. Products tested included tablecloths, placemats, picnic baskets, coolers, water toys, folding chairs and umbrellas purchased from 8 of the top 10 national retailers: Lowes, Home Depot, Walgreens, CVS, Target, Walmart, Kroger and Costco.

Summary of findings:

  • Almost all (96%) products contained at least one or more chemicals of concern at detectable levels (40 ppm). One-third (36%) had three or more.
  • 40% (23 of 58) contained PVC or chlorinated flame retardants (chlorine above 3,500 ppm) and 7% (4 of 58) contained brominated flame retardants (bromine above 400 ppm).
  • Hazardous heavy metals were also found in picnic products; 31% (18 of 58) had levels of antimony above 100 ppm; 22% (13 of 58) had levels of tin above 100 ppm. Four products contained levels of lead above 100 ppm including a fabric tablecloth that contained 1/4 pound of lead weights (4 one ounce lead weights sewn into each corner).
  • Four products contained one or more phthalates. A folding chair with a vinyl coating contained 17.1% by weight phthalates (16% DEHP and 1.1% DINP) and over 1,000 ppm antimony.

2013 Garden Hose Study

In 2013 HealthyStuff.org tested 21 new garden hoses samples purchased from Lowe's, Home Depot, Walmart, Target and Kmart. In 2012 we conducted similar tests on 90 different garden hoses and found similar levels of chemicals in the products.

Summary of findings:

  • One-third (8 of 21) of the garden hoses tested contained enough chemicals of concern to be ranked "high concern" in our ranking system, which means we detected high levels of one or more chemical hazards.
    • 48% (10 products) were medium concern
    • 14% (3 products) were low concern
  • Phthalates which are currently banned in children's products were found in water hoses at levels exceeding US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.
  • Water samples from several representative hoses contained numerous chemical hazards, including phthalates and BPA.
  • Phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) in garden hoses

  • Two-thirds (14 of 21) of hose material tested was PVC. PVC can contain a range of hazardous additives including phthalate plasticizers, BPA and organotins.
  • New laboratory test data showed water held in a tested water hose contained PVC plastic additives. Those additives, including phthalates and bisphenol A, were found to migrate out of the hose material into water contained in the hose.
  • Total phthalate content in the five hoses tested ranged from 11% to 18% by weight. Phthalates are not chemically bound to PVC and can be released to the air and water.
  • All of the 4 hoses tested contained one or more phthalates which are banned by CPSC in children's products. The four hoses tested were:
    • Flexon Medium Duty Garden Hose from Walmart
    • Swan 50 ft Fairlawn Light Duty Hose from Home Depot
    • Apex Light Duty from Lowe's
    • Room Essentials 50 ft Light Duty Hose from Target
Note: HealthyStuff.org only tests for a limited set of chemical hazards. Garden products may also contain other chemical hazards which were NOT tested for in this study.

Other Recent HealthyStuff.org Studies

NOTE: HealthyStuff.org is an initial screening of chemicals in products for a handful of hazardous chemicals. There are a number of chemicals of concern that the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) device and HealthyStuff.org cannot detect. For example, there has been much concern recently about bisphenol A, a component of polycarbonate plastic. The XRF device is not able to detect bisphenol A, nor can it identify polycarbonate. In addition, the XRF device cannot detect phthalates, a family of chemicals of concern, although we have used the presence of PVC plastic as a surrogate for the likely presence of phthalates.

HealthyStuff.org ratings do not provide a measure of health risk or chemical exposure associated with any individual product, or any individual element or related chemical. HealthyStuff.org ratings only provide a relative measure of high, medium, and low level of concern or concentrations of several hazardous chemicals or chemical elements in product in comparison to criteria established in the methodology.

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