Be Safe


EPA Prevents Harmful Chemicals from Entering the Marketplace


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking action to protect the public from certain chemicals that have the potential to cause a range of health effects from cancer to reproductive and developmental harm to people and aquatic organisms.

“We are committed to protecting all Americans from exposure to harmful chemicals used in domestic and imported products,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention. “There must be a level playing field for U.S. businesses – which is why we’re targeting harmful chemicals no longer used in the U.S. that find their way into commerce, sometimes through imported products. This final action will give EPA the opportunity to restrict or limit any new uses of these chemicals, including imported goods with these chemicals.”

Today’s action addresses the following chemicals:

Most uses of certain benzidine-based dyes which can be used in textiles, paints and inks and can be converted in the body into a chemical that is known to cause cancer;

Most uses of DnPP, a phthalate, which can be used in PVC plastics and shown to cause developmental and/or reproductive effects in laboratory animals; and

Alkanes C 12-13, chloro, a short-chain chlorinated paraffin (SCCP), which can be used as industrial lubricants and are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic to aquatic organisms at low concentrations and can be transported globally in the environment.

Some of the chemicals in today’s rule have previously been used in consumer products but are not used in the market today. Today’s Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) issued under the Toxic Substances Control Act allow EPA to review any efforts by manufacturers, including importers, to introduce these chemicals into the market and take appropriate action to ensure that human health and the environment are protected. EPA believes that new uses of these chemicals should not be allowed without an opportunity for review and, if necessary, to place restrictions on these chemicals, as warranted.

The action adds nine benzidine-based dyes to an existing SNUR. It closes a loophole to ensure that these chemicals and products containing them, such as clothing, cannot be imported without EPA review and possible restriction. EPA has investigated safer dyes and colorants as alternatives to benzidine as part of its Safer Chemical Ingredients List and Design for the Environment program.

In 2012, EPA required companies to stop manufacturing and importing SCCPs and to pay fines as a result of an enforcement action. The SCCPs have been proposed for addition to the Stockholm Convention for Persistent Organic Pollutants:

EPA is further evaluating related medium-chain (MCCPs) and long-chain chlorinated paraffins (LCCPs) as part of the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments.

EPA has added several phthalates to the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments. If a TSCA Work Plan assessment indicates a potential risk, the agency would determine if risk reduction actions, as appropriate, should be taken.

These final SNURs will require anyone who wishes to manufacture (including import) or process these chemical substances for a significant new use to notify EPA 90 days before starting or resuming new uses of these chemicals. This notice will provide EPA with the opportunity to evaluate the intended use of the chemicals and, if necessary, take action to prohibit or limit the activity.

Additional information on this SNUR:

Fact sheet on benzidine-based dyes:

Fact sheet on DnPP:

Fact sheet on Alkanes:

xmas lights

Study finds toxic chemicals in a majority of seasonal holiday products


String lights and beaded garlands have been hazards for multiple years

A new research study finds that top retailers of holiday decor continue to sell some seasonal decorations and other products that contain hazardous chemicals. Researchers found that 2/3 of these products have one or more hazardous chemicals that have been linked to serious health threats. The study is an update to previous research in 2012 and 2013 by (a project of the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit organization, the Ecology Center), which found high levels of level chemical hazards in light strings, holiday garland and other décor products. Products were purchased and tested from Walgreens, Kroger, Lowe’s, Walmart, Target and Dollar Tree.

For the study, the Ecology Center researchers tested a total of 69 seasonal holiday products including beaded and tinsel garlands, artificial wreaths and greenery, stockings, figurines and other tabletop decorations, and gift bags. Products were tested for substances that have been linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer. Chemical hazards can be released into the air, dust or on the skin when handling products, resulting in exposure.

“We’ve been testing and finding similar problems with these products since 2012. Most retailers have been slow to react and continue sell these products,” said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s principle researcher.  Environmental and public health advocates with the Mind the Store Campaign have called for the nation’s biggest retailers to work with suppliers to eliminate these hazards and develop safer substitute chemicals for these products.

Thirteen percent of the 2014 holiday products contained lead above 100 parts per million (ppm); 12% of the products contained more than 800 ppm bromine, indicating the presence of brominated flame retardants. Beaded garlands were found to contain a multitude of toxic contaminants, mirroring the results from the group’s 2013 study of beaded garlands. Light strings were also compared to an earlier study by The 2014 lights—including lights attached to decorations–commonly showed high levels of lead and bromine, as did the 2010 study.

“Parents shouldn’t have to worry that their holiday decorations may contain toxic chemicals,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “Big retailers should get these hidden hazards out of holiday decorations, once and for all. Parents expect their favorite retailers to mind the store.” recommends common sense precautions when handling these products because they may contain hazardous substances.

  • Do not allow children (or adults) to put small holiday ornaments in their mouths.
  • Wash your hands after handling the holiday light strings.
  • Frequent vacuuming and reducing levels of dust can reduce exposures to many of these chemicals of concern. is a project of the Ecology Center. The full test results are available at

©2014 Julie Dermansky for Earthworks

Theo Colborn, 1927–2014


The grassroots movement for environmental health has lost one of its most passionate and visionary leaders. Theo Colborn passed away on December 14th at the age of 87.

Theo Colborn Theo received many awards and honors

©2014 Julie Dermansky for Earthworks

for her work. She was president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) and Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She is perhaps best known for her pioneering work on the impacts of endocrine disrupting chemicals on public health. She co-authored the groundbreaking book Our Stolen Future which documented and brought to public attention the dangers of endocrine disrupting chemicals to people and wildlife. Like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, this book brought to light a previously unrecognized threat that led to changes worldwide.

It’s hard to overstate the impact of Theo’s trailblazing research which demonstrated that endocrine disrupting chemicals alter development of the fetus in the womb by interfering with the natural hormonal signals directing fetal growth leading to alterations in sexual and functional development in humans and wildlife. What she and her colleagues put forth was stunning and quite contrary to traditional toxicology and established thinking. They posed the idea that exposure to very low levels of chemicals found daily in our lives was sufficient to adversely alter cellular function leading to significant reproductive and developmental changes. And they backed it up with unimpeachable scientific research.

Such radical thinking led to numerous attacks from the chemical industry which tried to destroy her reputation just as they had attacked Rachel Carson in her day. But like Carson, Theo was a fighter who relied on the rigorous scientific evidence provided by her research and the work of others on endocrine disrupting chemicals to rebut the industry arguments and claims.

While her visionary leadership and passion was most apparent in her defense of her work, Theo became disheartened, as expressed in a biography written earlier this year by Elizabeth Grossman, “at the policy-makers’ failure to respond to the abundant scientific evidence of an environmental health crisis and their willingness to accede to the chemical industry’s doubts about endocrine disruption effects,” “I am thoroughly convinced this is all real,” said Colborn. “The science is there. We don’t need more science. We need work in a different sphere entirely,” she said. It is our responsibility to pick up the ball from here.

As with all great leaders, Theo’s legacy endures in her published work, in the scientists she mentored and in the many people she inspired. She will be missed but she will be remembered for many generations to come, generations that she worked tirelessly to protect.

Theo’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to TEDX. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange has a forum to share your favorite Theo Colborn story.


A once-polluted Chicago industrial site now a community park


Community park opens on ex-Chicago Superfund site

Posted by Richard Gehres

City, state and federal officials joined residents in the city’s Little Village neighborhood on Sunday to officially open the La Villata  Park on a 22-acre site.

The land once was home to a Celotex Corp. plant, which made asphalt roofing. The site was contaminated with chemicals and eventually placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list.

It was remediated in recent years to allow construction of a park in the mostly Hispanic neighborhood. The $19 million park includes artificial-turf soccer fields, basketball courts, a skate park and playground. It also has a promenade, multi-use trail and landscaping.The city still plans to open a natural-grass baseball and softball field with concession and restrooms.


Chemical Phthalates in Food Packaging Linked With Lower IQ in Kids


Kids whose moms had the highest levels of certain chemicals in their bodies during pregnancy had markedly lower IQs at age 7, researchers said Wednesday.

It’s the latest in a series of studies linking the chemicals, called phthalates, with health effects ranging from behavioral disorders to deformations of the sex organs.

While the study doesn’t show for sure that the phthalates damaged the kids’ brains during development, the researchers say they did everything they could to filter out other possible effects and they still found the link between some — but not all — of the phthalates and IQ.

Read more from Maggie Fox at NBC News.


Student probes toxicity of fire-retardant materials in daycares



University of Saskatchewan toxicology student David Saunders has analyzed dust from 20 daycares in the Saskatoon area to learn whether flame retardant chemicals in foam furniture and children’s toys pose a health hazard.

Added to fabrics and furniture to increase fire resistance, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in high concentrations are potentially toxic for human health and very persistent in the environment.

Read more here.


Survey says! Top PPCP research questions identified by environmental scientists, with Murray Rudd


Link to IEAM podcast episode 17. [.mp3 file]

Link to IEAM podcast episode 17 transcript. [.pdf file]


Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are a hot topic in environmental science. Trace PPCP chemicals end up in the environment, after being disposed of in sewage and other waste systems. From synthetic estrogens that feminize male fish to concerns about resistance to antibiotics, this is a growing area of research and public attention. Yet many potential and long-term effects on human and ecosystem health remain largely unknown. These significant knowledge gaps preclude the development of regulatory policies that address potential risks of PPCPs in the environment. So what are the next steps? Author Murray Rudd leads an international study in theOctober 2014 issue of IEAM that examines top PPCP research priorities among an international group of environmental scientists. The identification of international research priorities—according to hundreds of environmental scientists—serve as a guide for the types of hazard- and risk-based research needed to inform regulation of PPCPs as well as provide opportunities to collaborate among researchers across disciplinary sectors and countries.


EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calls for tougher ozone standards


In an article today, McCarthy proposes to update national ozone pollution standards, lowering the current standard of 75 parts per billion to a standard in the range of 65-70 parts per billion.  She notes that in the US, one in ten children already suffers from asthma, and ozone pollution makes things worse.  If these proposed standards are finalized, this means avoiding 1 million missed school days, thousands of cases of acute bronchitis, and nearly a million asthma attacks for children.  Read the full article here.


Sandra Free To Stop The Fracking


Sandra Steingraber was released from a New York jail shortly after midnight on Wednesday after serving 15 days for blockading the gates to a natural-gas storage facility. Read more.


Toxic Hot Seat is Here!


It’s here!

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is screening the documentary Toxic Hot Seat through December 7th.

RSVP now and don’t miss your chance to see this amazing documentary.

Click here to watch.

Toxic Hot Seat is directed by James Redford and Kirby Walker. The film shows the struggle to remove toxic flame retardant chemicals from our couches, environment and bodies. These chemicals are linked to lower IQ in children, thyroid disease, infertility, cancer and rising rates of other health problems.

Watch Toxic Hot Seat now!