2013 Picnic Products Screening

What did we test?

  • 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.
  • In conjunction with release of the new test data, the Mind the Store retailer campaign released a new guide to the 10 toxic products you don’t want at your picnic.
  • conducts independent, scientific testing of everyday consumer products for chemical hazards and translates those test results into an easy-to-use consumer guide. is a project of the Ecology Center, a Michigan-based, nonprofit environmental organization.

What Chemicals Did We Test for?

  • tested picnic related products for chemicals based on their toxicity or suspected toxicity, persistence, and/or tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals, including lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants), chlorine (PVC), cadmium, arsenic, tin (organotins), and phthalates have also been linked in animal and some human studies to long-term health impacts such as asthma, birth defects, impaired learning,liver toxicity, and cancer.
  • conducted limited sampling of picnic products for phthalates. Phthalates are chemical additives used to soften PVC products such as table cloths, garden hoses and vinyl fabrics, which can be released from PVC into the air and dust.
  • measured the presence of metals, chlorinated and brominated compounds with an High Definition XRF analyzer, a proven, accurate method for identifying elements in products. Phthalates were analyzed by a contract lab using EPA Test Method SW8270C.

What did we find?

  • 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.
  • Click here to learn about alternative choices for your next picnic

Entertain Weighted Fabric Tablecloth
Table cloth 1/4 pound of lead weights (4 one ounce lead weights sewn into the corners)

Entertain Easy Carry Picnic Tote
Vinyl Tote material contained 6.5% by weight phthalates (DEHP)

Banzai Wigglin Water Sprinkle
Hose on water toy contained 0.26% by weight phthalates (0.19% DINP and 0.07% DIDP)

Room Essentials 50 ft. Light Duty Hose*
Vinyl hose contained 16% phthalates

Living Solutions Folding Chair
Chair fabric vinyl coating contained 17.1% by weight phthalates (16% DEHP and 1.1% DINP) and over 1,000 ppm antimony

Mainstays Vinyl Table Protector (Clear)
Vinyl table cover contained 8.4% by weight phthalates (8.4% DIDP)

Mainstays Vinyl Placemat (Red)
Vinyl place mat contained 6.4% phthalates (DIDP)

Flexon Medium Duty Garden Hose*
Vinyl hose contained 16.8% by weight phthalates (16% DEHP, 0.06% DIDP and 1,900 ppm DINP)

Garden Treasure Folding Arm Chair (Black)
Vinyl grommets on chair contain 7.9% (79,000 ppm) by weight lead.The grommet material also contains brominated flame retardants (9,393 ppm bromine), organotins (4,791 ppm tin) and antimony (70,844 ppm).

Apex Light Duty Garden Hose*
Vinyl hose contained 11.3% by weight phthalates (DEHP, DIDP, DINP)

Home Depot
Swan Fairlawn Light Duty Hose*
Vinyl hose contained 14.5% by weight phthalates (DEHP, DIDP, DINP)

*Products tested in April 2013

Phthalates Material Sample Results for Select Picnic Products Phthalate results

Phthalates Material Sample Results for Select Garden Products Phthalate results

What are the hazards of phthalates?

  • Phthalates are a group of chemicals, some of which have endocrine-disrupting properties, that can disturb normal hormonal processes, often at low levels of exposure. (Illinois EPA 2000).
  • Exposure to phthalates is linked to birth defects of the genitals and altered levels of reproductive hormones in baby boys. An increased breast cancer risk is also suspected (Main 2006, Swan 2005, Marsee 2006,PDF). Phthalates in building products have also been linked to asthma. (Mendell, 2007, PDF).
  • Human testing by the federal government finds phthalates in almost all of the population, with the highest levels in children ages 6 to 11 years and in women (CDC, 2005). DINP (one type of phthalate) is commonly used as an additive in childrens toys.
  • Studies have demonstrated possible links between DINP and adverse impacts on the reproductive system, kidneys, liver, and blood (State of Oregon, PDF).
    In vitro maternal exposure to DEHP has been correlated to improper brain development in fetal rats. (Xu 2007). Exposure to DEHP can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors in the liver (Foster 2007,PDF).

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