FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 8, 2013
CONTACT: Jeff Gearhart, 734-369-9276
New Study of Picnic Supplies Finds Lead, Phthalates, Hazardous Flame Retardants, Organotins and Other Harmful Ingredients
Study Toxic chemicals 'even follow us into the outdoors'
Mind the Store Calls on Top Ten Retailers to Phase Out Toxics
Report graphics and background materials
- Diagrams of picnic products tested:
(Ann Arbor, MI) -- Researchers released a new study of chemical hazards in
picnic products sold at top ten national retailers, finding most have one or
more hazardous chemicals linked to serious health problems. The nonprofit Ecology
Center tested 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. The results were released today on the
easy-to-use consumer website - www.HealthyStuff.org - which also includes prior
research on toys, car seats, pet products, cars, women’s handbags, back-to-school
products and children’s car seats.
“It’s outrageous that we can’t even enjoy the outdoors without
these industrial hazards coming along for the ride,” said Jeff Gearhart,
the Ecology Center’s
lead researcher. “Our testing shows that there is no escaping toxic
chemicals. They show up everywhere, they’re in our cars, our homes, our
offices and now we know they even follow us into the outdoors.”
HealthyStuff.org tested picnic products for chemicals based on their toxicity
or tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include
lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants), chlorine (PVC and chlorinated
flame retardants), cadmium, arsenic, tin (organotins), phthalates and mercury.
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 what at your
Phthalates -- chemical additives used to soften PVC products -- were prominent
in vinyl tablecloth, vinyl coated fabric chairs, water toys and garden hoses.
22% of the commercial use of one phthalate, DEHP, is in outdoor products. Phthalate
compounds leach, migrate, or off-gas from PVC-containing items into air, dust,
water, soils, sediments, and food. While indoor exposures to phthalates is
the most critical source of exposure, outdoor products can release phthalates
when stored indoors and increase overall phthalate release in the environment.
These chemicals have become ubiquitous environmental contaminants and have
been associated with number of adverse health effects.
A 2008 European study (Kolarik 2008) found an association between concentrations
of phthalates in indoor dust and wheezing among preschool children. Moreover,
some phthalates have endocrine-disrupting properties, meaning that they can
disturb normal hormonal processes, often at low levels of exposure. Other studies
have demonstrated possible links between phthalates and adverse impacts on
the reproductive system, kidneys, liver, and blood. Children and pets are particularly
vulnerable, since they are frequently close to the ground and therefore have
high levels of exposure. Many of the substances found in the picnic products
have already been restricted or banned in children’s products.
Fortunately, HealthyStuff.org test data also showed that many products did not contain dangerous substances, proving that safer products can be made.
Highlights of Findings from HealthyStuff.org’s Picnic Study:
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.
Worst Products By Retailer
*Products tested in April 2013
To sample the picnic products experts used a High Definition X-Ray Fluorescence (HD XRF) analyzer and laboratory testing. XRF is an accurate device that has been used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to screen packaging; the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to screen food; and many State and County Health Departments to screen for residential lead paint. Additional samples were analyzed by laboratories using EPA test methods.
Bipartisan legislation called the “Chemical Safety Improvement Act,” was
recently introduced in Congress. The bill is intended to fix the nation's woefully
inadequate toxics law. Most health and environment advocates say the proposal
is laden with red ink and other flaws and must be made stronger before it is
enacted into law.
“While Congress debates, retailers can make immediate changes that will
protect their customers,” said Andy Igrejas, executive director of Safer Chemicals,
Healthy Families. “Those changes will ripple across the marketplace and earn
customer loyalty while making us all healthier.”
All of the study results and more information about what consumers can do is available now at www.HealthyStuff.org. Mind the Store is a national retailer campaign to remove toxic chemicals from the shelves of the top ten national retailers. More information can be found at mindthestore.saferchemicals.org.
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