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HealthyStuff.org - Press Releases

For Consumer or Press Questions: Jeff Gearhart - 734-369-9276

Advisories and Releases


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Thursday, March 8, 2012

CONTACT:      
Glenn Turner, 917-817-3396, glenn@ripplestrategies.com
Shayna Samuels, 718-541-4785, shayna@ripplestrategies.com

Britax and Orbit Baby Commit to Phase Out
Hazardous Flame Retardants & PVC from Children’s Car Seats

HealthyStuff.org Applauds Companies’ Commitment to Healthy Products

(Ann Arbor, MI) – Today the Ecology Center applauds Britax, the 4th largest manufacturer of children’s car seats, and Orbit Baby, for their commitment to eliminate chemical hazards in their products.  Orbit Baby was the first to market children’s car seats free of hazardous flame retardants and PVC.  Britax, just yesterday, reiterated their commitment to eliminate hazardous flame retardants that contain bromine or chlorine by the end of 2012.  Copies of the Britax and Orbit Baby policies can be viewed at www.HealthyStuff.org.

"Orbit Baby and Britax prove that it is possible to comply with government fire-safety standards and make a product that does not cause harm to children’s health," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s Research Director and founder of HealthyStuff.org, which has tested hundreds of popular car seats for toxic chemicals.  "We thank all of the parents who have expressed concern about toxic chemicals in children’s car seats, and these two companies for leading the way to safer products."

Orbit Baby and Britax are phasing out brominated and chlorinated flame retardants (BFRs & CFRs), which are added to plastics for fire resistance, and have been associated with thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, and behavioral changes.  Although fire retardants in foam are necessary to meet certain fire-safety standards, non-halogenated fire retardants are available, and many have a better safety profile. 

Both companies are also phasing out chlorine, associated with the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is widely used in plastics and is of concern to the environment and public health during all phases of its life cycle.  PVC contains chemicals called phthalates, which have been associated with decreased fertility, pre-term deliveries, and damage to the liver, testes, thyroid, ovaries, kidneys, and blood.

Heat and UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the breakdown of these chemicals and possibly increase their toxicity.  Babies are the most vulnerable population in terms of exposure, since their bodily systems are still developing and they spend many hours in their car seats.

Britax, which manufactured one of HealthyStuff.org’s most toxic carseats in 2011, sent an email to the Ecology Center yesterday stating the following: "BRITAX stands by its commitment to expand its specifications to focus on reducing and/or eliminating the usage of all chemicals containing bromine or chlorine to all components, not just those that are in close or direct contact with children.  This new specification has several challenges, but we fully expect that all suppliers will be compliant by the end of 2012."

Likewise, a statement by Orbit says: "All Orbit Baby products comply with the government's requirements for flame retardancy without the use of toxic brominated and chlorinated chemicals, like PBBs and PBDEs....We go above and beyond to certify that there are no dangerous flame retardant chemicals in our fabrics."  Orbit Baby certifies all of their seat fabrics to stringent third-party standards established under the Oeko-Tex® 100 Standard.

"Orbit Baby is clearly the industry leader in terms of chemical safety, having had healthier products on the market for over a year," stated Gearhart.  "However, Britax’s new commitment takes this to whole new level, showing that safe and healthy seats can be produced on a large scale without hazardous flame retardants."

Overall, car seats are improving in terms of their toxicity levels.  Since 2008, when the Ecology Center first started doing this research, average car seat rankings have improved by 64%. 

"Car seats save lives.  It’s absolutely essential that parents put their children in them while driving, regardless of the rating a particular seat receives at HealthyStuff.org," said Gearhart.  "However, we are thrilled that parents will now have more choices that protect children in more ways than one."

Click here to read the email statement from Britax representatives - March 2012
Click here to see the Official Britax Chemical Statement - October 2011

 

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CONTACT: Glenn Turner, 917-817-3396, glenn@ripplestrategies.com; Shayna Samuels, 718-541-4785, shayna@ripplestrategies.com

New Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Cars Helps Consumers Avoid "New Car Smell" As Major Source of Indoor Air Pollution

Best Picks: Honda Civic, Toyota Prius, Honda CR-Z
Worst Picks: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Chrysler 200, Kia Soul

Honda Rated as Top Manufacturer; PVC Reduction Efforts Hailed

(Ann Arbor, MI) - Today the Ecology Center released its fourth consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars at HealthyStuff.org, finding the Honda Civic at the top of this year's list, and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport at the bottom. Over 200 of the most popular 2011- and 2012-model vehicles were tested for chemicals that off-gas from parts such as the steering wheel, dashboard, armrests and seats. These chemicals contribute to "new car smell" and a variety of acute and long-term health concerns. Since the average American spends more than 1.5 hours in a car every day, toxic chemical exposure inside vehicles can be a major source of indoor air pollution.

"Research shows that vehicle interiors contain a unique cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that off-gas in small, confined spaces," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center. "Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. Our testing is intended to expose those dangers and encourage manufacturers to use safer alternatives."

Chemicals of primary concern include: bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; and heavy metals. Such chemicals have been linked to a wide range of health problems such as allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. Automobiles are particularly harsh environments for plastics, as extreme air temperatures of 192 F and dash temperatures up to 248 F can increase the concentration of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) and break other chemicals down into more toxic substances.

"Automobiles function as chemical reactors, creating one of the most hazardous environments we spend time in," added Gearhart.

The good news is overall vehicle ratings are improving. The best vehicles today have eliminated hazardous flame retardants and PVC. Today, 17% of new vehicles have PVC-free interiors and 60% are produced without BFRs.

Top ranking cars in this year's release are: 1) Honda Civic 2) Toyota Prius and 3) Honda CR-Z. Worst ranking: 1) Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2) Chrysler 200 SC and 3) Kia Soul. The Civic achieved its ranking by being free of bromine-based flame retardants in all interior components; utilizing PVC-free interior fabrics and interior trim; and having low levels of heavy metals and other metal allergens. The Mitsubishi Outlander contained bromine and antimony-based flame retardants in the seating and center console; chromium treated leather on several components; and over 400 ppm lead in seating materials. The full list of top 10 best and worst cars is found below:

ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings ratings

"We're pleased to be recognized by HealthyStuff.org for our efforts. Over the past decade, Honda has taken a number of steps to reduce or remove chemicals of concern from our vehicles. We voluntarily report these efforts in our annual North American Environmental Report," stated Marcos Frommer, Manager of Corporate Affairs & Communications at American Honda.

Anyone looking to buy a new car can visit www.HealthyStuff.org and search by model, comparison shop between different models, and cross reference with fuel economy standards to find both a healthy and fuel-efficient vehicle. A widget and mobile phone application are also available. Visitors to the site are encouraged to contact car manufacturers and ask them to subscribe to voluntary third party eco labels, such as the TUV Toxproof and Oko-Tex Standard 100, and reduce their use of toxic chemicals in vehicles. A number of leading automakers, including Ford (TUV) and Volvo (Oko Tex), have already adopted these standards for some of their vehicles.

Other Findings:

Most improved automakers in terms of the average ratings for their vehicles are VW (+42%), Mitsubishi (+38%) and Ford (+30%). These represent improvement from the 2009/2010 models to the 2011/2012 models.

Two automaker had overall declining average scores from 2009/2010 to 2011/2012: Diamler AG (-29%) and Volvo (-13%).

On a fleet-wide basis PVC use is declining. Zero percent of pre-2006 vehicles had PVC-free interiors, versus 17% (34) of the 2011/2012 vehicle models which had PVC-free interiors. Flexible PVC often contains hazardous plasticizers, or "softeners," called phthalates, which off-gas during vehicle use and are deposited on dust particles and windshields, where they cause "fogging." In recent years, automakers have begun replacing PVC with polyurethanes and polyolefins, which contain fewer harmful additives and are easier to recycle.

40% of vehicle tested in 2012 contained Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) in the vehicle interiors. BFR's refer to a wide range of chemicals added to materials to both inhibit their ignition and slow their rate of combustion. Alternatives which provide the degree of fire safety required under law without using organic compounds of bromine exist, as well as options in product redesign.

Note: HealthyStuff.org only tests for a limited set of chemical hazards. Vehicles may also contain other chemical hazards, including chlorinated flame retardants (CFR) which were NOT tested for in this study

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EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: 12:01 a.m. EST, Wed, Aug 3, 2011
CONTACT: Jeff Gearhart 734-761-3186 ext 9276

** ATTN JOURNALISTS: Graphics of Best/Worst Car Seats & Images Available **

Hazardous Flame Retardants and Chemical Additives Found in
Over Half of 2011 Child Car Seats Tested by HealthyStuff.org

Toxic Chemicals Linked to Allergies, Birth Defects,
Impaired Learning, Liver Toxicity, and Cancer

Best Overall Child Car Seat: Graco Turbo Booster (in Anders)
Worst Overall Child Car Seat: Recaro Pro Booster (in Blue Opal)


The latest research on toxic chemicals in children's car seats was released today by the nonprofit Ecology Center at the consumer-friendly site, www.HealthyStuff.org. While some seats were found to be virtually free of the most dangerous chemicals, over half (60%) contained at least one of the chemicals tested for.

Over 150, 2011-model car seats were tested for bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; other heavy metals, and allergens. These substances have been linked to allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. Heat and UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the breakdown of these chemicals and possibly increase their toxicity. Babies are the most vulnerable population in terms of exposure, since their bodily systems are still developing and they spend many hours in their car seats.

"Car seats save lives. It's absolutely essential that parents put their children in them while driving, regardless of the rating a particular seat received at HealthyStuff.org," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's Research Director. "However, our research shows that some car seats contain more harmful chemicals than others. HealthyStuff.org makes it easier for parents to research the best car seat for their child."

The site, which also has comprehensive data on toxic chemicals in toys, cars, home improvement products and more, allows users to look up the best- and worst-scoring car seats with respect to toxic chemical content. Anyone looking to buy a new car seat, or wondering how their child's current car seat compares to others, can visit this site and search by model, or comparison shop between different models or years.

"This study is yet another example of how our country's major chemicals law -- the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 -- is flawed and fails to protect children from hazardous chemicals," said Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. "Databases such as HealthyStuff.org can provide consumers with valuable information, but reforming our federal regulatory system so that harmful chemicals don't end up on the market in the first place is long overdue."

Most Toxic 2011 Car Seats:

  • Infant Seat: Graco Snugride 35 in Edgemont Red/Black & Graco SnugRide 30 in Asprey
  • Convertible Seat: Britax Marathon 70 in Jet Set & Britax Marathon in Platinum
  • Booster Seat: Recaro Pro Booster in Blue Opal & Recaro ProSPORT Toddler in Mist

Least Toxic 2011 Car Seats:

  • Infant Seat: Chicco KeyFit 30 in Limonata, Graco Snugride 35 in Laguna Bay & Combi Shuttle 33 in Cranberry Noche
  • Convertible Carseat: Graco Comfort Sport in Caleo, Graco MyRide 65 in Chandler and Streamer, Safety 1st OnSide Air in Clearwater, and Graco Nautilus Elite 3-in-1 in Gabe
  • Booster Seat: Graco Turbo Booster in Anders
Overall, car seats are improving in terms of their toxicity levels. Since 2008, when the Ecology Center first started doing this research, average car seat rankings have improved by 64%.

Other brands tested in 2011 include: Alpha Sport, Baby Trend, Clek, Compass, Dorel Juvenile Group (Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Maxi-Cosi, Safety First), Evenflo, Fisher Price, Harmony Juvenile, Orbit Baby, Peg Perego, Sunshine Kids, Teutonia and The First Years.

While there are numerous substances in car seats that can lead to health and environmental problems, the Ecology Center selected those with known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include:

Bromine: Associated with the use of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), which are added to plastics for fire resistance. Some BFRs have been associated with thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, and behavioral changes. A recent peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Science & Technology found a majority of baby products tested, including car seats, nursing pillows and baby carriers, contained chemical flame retardants either associated with adverse health effects or lacking adequate health information. Although fire retardants in foam are necessary to meet certain fire-safety standards, non-halogenated fire retardants are available, and many have a better safety profile. Brominated flame retardant chemicals that are either deemed toxic or that lack adequate health safety data were detected in 44% percent of the 2011 car seats tested. (NOTE: HealthyStuff.org did not test for all hazardous flame retardants, particularly chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs), and seats may contain other chemical hazards).

Chlorine: Associated with the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is widely used in plastics and is of concern to the environment and public health during all phases of its life cycle. PVC contains chemicals called phthalates, some of which have been associated with decreased fertility, pre-term deliveries, and damage to the liver, testes, thyroid, ovaries, kidneys, and blood. There is also evidence that phthalates can pass from mothers to babies through the placenta and through breast milk.

Lead: Lead is sometimes used as an additive in plastics. Exposure can lead to a number of potential health effects, including brain damage, learning disabilities, and problems with the kidneys, blood, nerves, and reproductive system.

Other: Other chemicals tested as part of HealthyStuff.org include antimony, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel and tin. The substances in this category are allergens, carcinogens, or cause other adverse health impacts depending on the concentrations and exposure levels.

Since 1997, researchers at the Ecology Center have performed over 20,000 tests for toxic chemicals on 7,000 consumer products. The family of HealthyStuff.org sites have attracted 1.5 million unique visitors and over 20 million page views. To sample these products they use a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, which identifies the elemental composition of materials in less than 60 seconds without destroying the product.

The Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety and HealthyStuff.org are now asking the largest car seat retailers, Graco and Evenflo, to take leadership to disclose and phase out hazardous chemical flame retardant additives. Consumers are encouraged to sign our petition to Graco and Evenflo at HealthyStuff.org.

For a complete list of car seat rankings and chemical composition visit www.HealthyStuff.org.

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* Hi-Res Photos and Detailed Test Data Analysis Available Upon Request *
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 12:01am, May 18, 2011

Toxic Chemicals Pervasive in Baby Products

New Study Finds Hazardous and Untested Flame Retardants in Products Made for Infants and Children

Health and Consumer Advocates Call on Product Makers to Reject Unnecessary Chemicals

(Washington, D.C.) – A study of products designed for newborns, babies, and toddlers – including car seats, breast feeding pillows, changing pads, crib wedges, bassinet mattresses and other items made with polyurethane foam – – found that 80% of products tested contained chemical flame retardants that are considered toxic, according to a peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Science & Technology Journal. Other retardants discovered had so little health and safety data on them it is not possible to know their effects at this time. The same flame retardants found in some of the products are also found in children’s bodies and widely dispersed throughout the environment and in food.

The new study analyzed 102 products for the presence of halogenated flame retardants. Interior foam samples were tested from nursing pillows, baby carriers, car seats, changing table pads, high chairs, strollers, bassinets, portable cribs, walkers, changing pads, baby carriers, sleeping wedges, baby tub insert, bath slings, glider rockers, and other essential child care items. Samples were submitted from purchase locations around the United States.

Study results:

  • Four products contained penta-BDE, a substance so toxic it is banned in 172 countries and 12 U.S. states, and subject to a national phaseout.
  • 29 products contained TDCPP or chlorinated Tris, a possible human carcinogen that was removed from children’s pajamas over health concerns in the late 1970s. In animal studies chlorinated Tris has been associated with cancer of the liver, kidney, brain and testis, among other harmful effects.
  • 14 products contained TCEP, a carcinogenic flame retardant on California’s Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals. Laboratory animal studies show TCEP causes tumors in the kidney and thyroid glands. In other laboratory animal studies, TCEP has been shown to cause reductions in fertility and poor sperm quality and to interfere with brain signaling, causing hyperactivity. TCEP is no longer produced in Europe and has been identified by Canada as posing a risk to human health.

  • 16 products contained Firemaster 550/600 flame retardants. EPA has predicted toxicity and required additional testing.
  • 14 products contained TCPP, which is similar in chemical structure to Chlorinated Tris and TCEP and has limited health information.
  • Consumer Advocates and Environmental Health Groups single out an antiquated California regulation, Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), as the reason for widespread use of flame retardants in baby products. Many product manufacturers make their products so that they can also be sold in California. Those that use polyurethane foam in their goods must meet TB 117. This results in population-wide exposure to dangerous, unnecessary flame retardants.

    Baby products purchased outside California may still be treated with hazardous flame retardants. Because of California TB 117, Americans everywhere are subject to chronic exposure to toxic or untested chemicals. Findings from the new Baby Product testing study reveal that many products purchased outside California carry a TB 117-compliant label and many are treated with chemical flame retardants. Products that contain polyurethane foam and are sold in California almost certainly carry those chemicals.

    The Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety, a new national network of health, consumer, and environmental groups, is calling for a modernization of California TB 117 in light of new scientific, health, environmental, and fire toxicity information about chemical flame retardants. They are calling for urgent action on this public health issue.

    "The sensible way to prevent fires is not to subject the entire population to an indoor air experiment with carcinogens and other toxics," said Kathy Curtis, campaign coordinator for the Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety. "Companies should make products without flame retardants for all of the other states that haven’t adopted California’s costly and outdated TB 117 rule. Research shows the addition of flame retardants to meet this standard doesn’t prevent fires. Moreover, when products with these chemicals do burn, they make the smoke far more toxic. Product makers should switch to inherently flame-resistant materials, make design changes or use less toxic chemical ingredients so fire fighters and victims of fire are better protected when these materials burn."

    Mike Schade, from Center for Health Environment & Justice also with ATFFS, said, "Many retailers, including Wal-Mart, are not waiting for government regulations to make changes. The Washington Post has reported that Wal-Mart informed its suppliers and customers it will no longer carry products with certain harmful flame retardant chemicals."

    "Toxic or untested flame retardants like the ones found in this study can migrate out of products and end up in our homes and our bodies. These chemicals are associated with adverse human health effects including reduced IQ, increased time to pregnancy, endocrine and thyroid disruption, and impaired child development," says Arlene Blum, PhD, a co-author of the study and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. Blum’s early research contributed to the removal of Tris flame retardants from children’s pajamas in the 1970’s. Blum says, "I was surprised to find Tris back in high levels in the foam in baby products."

    "Scientific research increasingly links some of today’s growing health problems with exposure to the types of halogenated flame retardant chemicals found in these baby products," said Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council. "Lowered IQ, reproductive problems --including the time it takes to get pregnant and sperm quality-- and abnormalities in male baby genitalia have all been linked to flame retardant chemical exposure. If this wasn’t concerning enough, only a small number of flame retardants have undergone safety testing. We need federal reform of our chemical policy laws to ensure the chemicals we bring into our homes are safe."

    According to Environmental Health News, researchers have found that U.S. adults have 20 times more of the flame retardant chemicals in their bodies than Europeans. Household dust tested in two areas of California had 200 times more brominated flame retardants than European homes. A recent study found that low income Mexican-American school children in California are apt to have 7 times more PBDE flame retardant chemicals in their bodies than Mexican children of the same age. The 7-year old Californians tested had more of the chemicals in their bodies than almost all people tested worldwide. Only Nicaraguan children living or working on hazardous waste sites have higher levels. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention report that over 90% of the U.S. population carries PBDE flame retardants in their bodies.

    Three corporations produce halogenated flame retardant chemicals: Albemarle, Chemtura, and Israeli Chemicals, Ltd. Chemtura’s product, Firemaster 550, exemplifies how new chemicals enter the American market. Chemtura Corporation first marketed Firemaster 550 in 2004 as an environmentally friendly replacement for pentaBDE, which was subject to a national phase-out that same year due to health concerns and, notably, which had been grandfathered in as ‘safe’ - without supporting data - when the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed in 1976. When the notice of manufacture was filed with the Environmental Protection Agency for Firemaster 550, EPA did not require pre-market testing of the chemical. Instead, EPA relied on the manufacturers own determination of safety. They also approved Chemtura’s confidentiality request for the two main ingredients in Firemaster 550, even though company test data showed the ingredients were a "high hazard concern" for both short-term and long-term ecotoxicity, meaning they could cause damage to fish, invertebrates or algae if they got into the water. Since then, Firemaster 550 has been found in house dust in Boston and in sewage sludge and wastewater plants in California, as well as baby products sold across America.

    Halogenated flame retardants added to fabric, to foam used in furniture and other products, to carpet padding, and to electronic equipment, also create more smoke and soot when these materials smolder or burn than do materials without these chemicals. And the smoke is deadly. First, inhalation can be deeply damaging to lungs. Fire fighters wear protective gear, but gear may not always function as intended. Second, intense smoke can be disorienting and disabling, making it impossible for fire fighters and building occupants to reach safety when surrounded by dense smoke and soot.

    Smoke can also carry toxic chemicals, including carbon monoxide, a deadly gas, and dioxins and furans, produced when chlorinated or brominated flame retardants burn. Dioxins and furans are some of the most toxic substances known, and have been associated with certain cancers, including soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, adult-onset leukemia, multiple myeloma, breast cancer, bladder cancer and stomach cancer. These chemicals are also associated with chloracne, cardiovascular disease, diabetes II, thyroid dysfunction and immune suppression.

    Firefighters have a higher incidence of heart disease, lung disease, and cancer compared to other workers. Getting chlorinated and brominated flame retardants out of their working environment could help reduce their chances of becoming ill.

    The fire safety benefits of adding flame retardants to meet the TB117 flammability standard are questionable. According to Vyto Babrauskas, the author of Fire Behavior of Upholstered Furniture and Mattresses, (William Andrew Publishing, Norwich NY 2001), the only textbook ever written on furniture flammability, TB117 is "so weak that it does not achieve any useful fire safety purpose." TB117 tests bare foam’s resistance to a small flame. But the foam in furniture lies beneath a layer of fabric. The fabric will ignite first and by the time the flame reaches the foam, it is too large for the chemicals that meet TB117 to have an effect.

    Alternatives to organohalogen flame retardant chemicals include using less flammable materials, design changes, and safer chemicals. Stronger electrical codes and modernized building and fire codes, as well as increased use of smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, and self-extinguishing cigarettes, will all continue to help prevent fires without using toxic chemicals. These measures plus an overall decrease in cigarette smoking in the U.S. have helped reduce fire deaths by 60% since 1980, making increasing use of chemical flame retardants unwise and unnecessary.

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