PVC

Photo by Ashley L. Conti | Bangor Daily News

Chemical safety advocacy group protests against LePage in Bangor

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Photo by Ashley L. Conti | Bangor Daily News

A 25-foot-long yellow inflatable duck has been drawing attention to chemical regulation in Bangor, Maine. The “Fear the Beard” campaign was launched by members of Prevent Harm, a public health political advocacy group, to protest against Governor Paul LePage’s history of lax chemical regulation. The name of the campaign stems from LePage’s comments in 2011 that the worst possible impacts from BPA would be that some women “may have little beards” – a reference to the chemical’s endocrine-disrupting properties, which may cause effects ranging from cancer to infertility.


“We’re out here today with our little beards [on sticks] to make sure that our next governor will put Maine kids ahead of the chemical industry, not the other way around,” Emma Halas-O’Connor, Prevent Harm advocacy manager, said.

Read more from Nok-Noi Ricker at Bangor Daily News.

Kidshalloween

This isn’t a trick: Toxic chemicals in Halloween costumes

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Parents across the country are stocking up on this year’s hottest costumes for their little ghouls, goblins, and princesses, but some costumes may contain hidden toxic chemicals harmful to our children’s health. I wish I were tricking you.

A new study released today by HealthyStuff.org found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in popular Halloween costumes, accessories and even “trick or treat” bags.  Dangerous chemicals like phthalates, flame retardants, vinyl (PVC) plastic, organotins, and even lead.  

TAKE ACTION: Tell big retailers – our children deserve a safe toxic-free Halloween.

They tested 105 types of Halloween gear for chemicals linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.  The products were purchased from top national retailers including CVS, Kroger, Party City, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens.

These chemicals have no place in products for our little ones.  For instance they found high levels of flame retardants in “trick or treat” bags, and a toddler Batman costume that contained very high levels of phthalates, and even lead in the lining of the mask. 

We know that big retailers can do better.  In fact the new testing also shows that many Halloween products do not contain dangerous substances, proving that safer products can be made.  

Join us and send a message to retailers today. It’s time they “Mind the Store” and get these toxic chemicals out of products once and for all.

Photo by Lynne Peeples

Why Some Skin Care Products And Those Thermal Receipts May Be A Troubling Combination

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Photo by Lynne Peeples

“Those little slips of paper that accumulate in our pockets and purses may do more than just document recent take-out meals, pumpkin

spice lattes and shopping sprees. Receipts, according to a small study published Wednesday, could also deliver a potentially harmful rush of hormone-scrambling chemicals into our bodies.”

Read more from Lynne Peeples at the Huffington Post

halloween

Tips for a Toxic-Free Halloween

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Wanna hear something spooky? With one of CHEJ’s favorite holidays, Halloween, right around the corner, we wanted to let you in on the chemical industry’s dirty little tricks.

PVC, one of the most toxic plastic for children’s health and the environment, has scared its way into some of our beloved children’s costumes.  Even scarier is that many vinyl products are laden with harmful phthalates,  endocrine disrupting chemicals banned in toys but widespread in many other vinyl products children come in contact with.  Vinyl products also often release a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals into the air. That’s that new plastic vinyl smell so many of us grew up with.  Who knew it was so scary!

With that in mind, here are some tips for a safer Halloween for your family and friends:

  • Avoid PVC: Shop for PVC-free costumes and masks.  If you’re not sure what the costume is made out of, ask the store or manufacturer whether or not it contains PVC and phthalates.
  • Make your own costume out of safer PVC-free materials!  We bet you can come up with something fun and creative by just diving into your closet.
  • Trade safe costumes with your friends. No need to buy more stuff.
  • Use safer face-paints.


Happy Halloween – and don’t get spooked by the chemical industry this Halloween season!

Plants

BPA in the air: Manufacturing plants in Ohio, Indiana, Texas are top emitters

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By Brian Bienkowski

Staff Writer
Environmental Health News


October 14, 2014

As concerns mount over people’s exposure to the plasticizer bisphenol A in everyday products, it’s also contaminating the air near manufacturing plants: U.S. companies emitted about 26 tons of the hormone-disrupting compound in 2013.

Although research is sparse, experts warn that airborne BPA could be a potentially dangerous route of exposure for some people. Of the 72 factories reporting BPA emissions, the largest sources are in Ohio, Indiana and Texas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’sToxics Release Inventory.

UC Irvine
Bruce Blumberg

No one has measured what people in nearby communities are exposed to. But the exposures are likely to be localized and smaller than other sources of BPA.

BPA breaks down quickly in the environment. But it also can attach to particles that infiltrate lungs, said Bruce Blumberg, a University of California, Irvine, biology professor.

“Inhalation of compounds is a big exposure route that most people do not usually consider for BPA,” he said.

BPA, used to make polycarbonate plastic, food can linings and some paper receipts, is found in almost all people tested. Low doses can alter hormones, according to animal tests, and exposure has been linked to a wide range of health effects in people, including infertility, cardiovascular disease, obesity and cancer.

In the only study of its kind, Japanese researchers reported that BPA was ubiquitous in the atmosphere worldwide. They suspected the emissions came from the manufacturing and burning of plastics.

In the United States, chemical manufacturing accounted for 54 percent of the BPA air emissions, while metal manufacturing and metal fabricating accounted for 21 and 20 percent, respectively, according to the EPA database. In addition, U.S. companies in 2013 reported releasing 3,313 pounds of BPA to surface waters, the EPA database shows.

The amount of BPA emitted into the air has been dropping in recent years. Although the number of companies reporting BPA emissions has remained about the same over the past decade, in 2013 the total tons declined 41 percent from 2012 and almost 66 percent from 10 years ago.

There is “no evidence that inhalation exposures are of concern.” –Kathryn St. John, American Chemistry Council Kathryn St. John, a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, said the data don’t reflect what people in surrounding communities might be exposed to. Factors such as the proximity of people to the plants and whether the emissions are continuous or intermittent are important when determining people’s exposures.

St. John added that there is “no evidence that inhalation exposures are of concern.” Studies have not provided any information on what happens to BPA if inhaled, such as whether it is absorbed in the lungs and if absorbed, whether it is metabolized.

Monica McGivern/flickr
BPA can attach to particles that are inhaled.

But Wade Welshons, an associate professor at the University of Missouri who studies endocrine-disrupting compounds, said airborne BPA could be absorbed through the lungs as well as the skin.

Both and inhalation and skin absorption “would deliver more BPA to the blood than an oral exposure,” he said.

Blumberg and Welshons said since these routes would bypass metabolizing organs such as the intestines and liver, airborne exposures may be more dangerous than food exposures.

“The liver is a great organ for metabolizing substances, lungs are for absorbing, not for metabolizing,” Welshons said.

No one has investigated the potential health effects of inhaling BPA. Regulatory agencies only consider oral doses when analyzing potential effects, Blumberg said.

Several communities with the biggest BPA emitters are also home to large volumes of other toxics from industrial plants.

Deer Park, Texas, had 4,100 pounds of BPA and 2.8 million pounds of other air toxics in 2013, while Defiance, Ohio, had 6,600 pounds of BPA and 387,454 pounds of others, according to the industry reports filed with the EPA. Freeport, Texas, home to a Dow Chemical plant, had 905 pounds of reported BPA air emissions last year and an additional 1.74 million pounds of other toxics.

Compared with exposure from consumer products such as polycarbonate plastic and food cans, there has been little concern about airborne BPA. “But this lower concern level is based on relatively little data,” said Laura Vandenberg, an assistant professor of environmental health at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies health effects of BPA. “This is something I would say is not discussed in-depth on our field but it should be.”

Several communities with the biggest BPA emitters are also home to large volumes of other toxics from industrial plants.There isn’t a lot of research on what happens to BPA when it’s released into the air. BPA degrades fairly quickly, but it also can attach to dust particles, Vandenberg said.

Researchers tested for BPA in the dust of homes, dorms and labs at and around Murray State University and the University at Albany in 2011. They estimated that, while diet is the still the major exposure route, people’s BPA exposures through dust are about the same as the low concentrations that cause health problems in lab animals. It’s not clear how the BPA got into the dust; it could have been from indoor sources.

Sudan Loganathan, who led the study while a student at Murray State University, said the estimated daily exposure for people through dust was low compared with food exposure. But, she added, “when you look at the average dust intake for adults and then infants, this is more of a concern for infants. They are on the floor, and there’s more hand-to-mouth contact.”

Blumberg said air quality monitoring should expand to test for BPA.

“There are a lot of people studying inhalation exposure with things like particulate pollution, ozone and other major components of exhaust, but not much at all when it comes to chemical exposure like BPA,” Blumberg said. “That’s a big open area right now.”


Follow Brian Bienkowski on Twitter.

Original story at http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/oct/bpa-emissions

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Editor in Chief Marla Cone atmcone@ehn.org.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Chemicals of Concern

Solutions to Hazardous Plasticizers

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From Mark Rossi at BizNGO

The dominant movement in the marketplace is to alternative plasticizers to DEHP and other phthalates. Yet this is the less preferred solution to avoiding PVC and plasticizers altogether. Some recent assessments on alternative materials and plasticizers include:

Clean Production Action’s Plastics Scorecard demonstrated the benefits of substituting medical IV bags made from PVC/DEHP with polyolefin bags that require no plasticizers (see figure to the right). The substitution eliminated the need for plasticizers, which are roughly 30% of the weight of an IV bag.

Alternative plasticizers need to be assessed for their hazards. While less preferable than avoiding PVC and plasticizers altogether, if a company can’t avoid PVC, here are two analyses of alternative plasticizers. The Healthy Building Network (HBN) and Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) used the GreenScreen (GS) to evaluate alternatives to phthalates in building products (HBN) and DEHP in wire and cable (GC3). Here are their findings:

- Two bio-based products that appear to be the least toxic of all the plasticizers it evaluated (Grindsted Soft-n-Safe and Polysorb ID 37) – GS Benchmark (BM) undetermined due to data gaps (HBN)
- DEHT – GS BM 3 (with data gaps) (GC3 & HBN)
- Vegetable oil based blends that vary from GS BM 2 to GS BM 3 (GC3 & HBN)
- DINCH – GS BM 2 (GC3 & HBN)
- Dibenzoate plasticizer – potentially GS BM 1 (while safer than DINP still has significant hazardous properties) (HBN); and

- Polymeric adipate – GS Benchmark 2, 3, or 4 (depending on chemical assessed) (GC3).

Further alternative assessments of phthalates: The U.S. EPA Design for Environment program is in the middle of a project to evaluate alternatives to eight phthalates.

Basic RGB

Corporate Espionage Non Profits Without Legal Consequences

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Greenpeace received word that the DC Court of Appeals has ruled against them in their lawsuit against Dow Chemical, Sasol, Dezenhall Resources, Ketchum, and the former operates of the now-defunct Beckett, Brown, Inc. corporate espionage firm. The court dismissed the case because Greenpeace rents its office space and the court ruled that as tenants and not owners, Greenpeace had no standing to sue the burglars for intruding on our premises.

Some of you that have been with CHEJ for a while might remember this is the same suit in which CHEJ and Lois Gibbs was targeted with both her home address listed in the espionage firm’s documents as well as photos of the front of her house.  Too bad the case was dismissed but not surprising.  CHEJ knows that they are watched and our phone and internet wires cut a few years ago also went unsolved. For a recap of the case read Ralph Nader’s recent article.

Like other firms specializing in snooping, Beckett Brown turned to garbage swiping as a key tactic. BBI officials and contractors routinely conducted what the firm referred to as “D-line” operations, in which its operatives would seek access to the trash of a target, with the hope of finding useful documents. One midnight raid targeted Greenpeace. One BBI document lists the addresses of several other environmental groups as “possible sites” for operations: the National Environmental Trust, the Center for Food Safety, Environmental Media Services, the Environmental Working Group, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization run by Lois Gibbs, famous for exposing the toxic dangers of New York’s Love Canal. For its rubbish-rifling operations, BBI employed a police officer in the District of Columbia and a former member of the Maryland state police. Ridgeway Mother Jones Article.

r-CHILDREN-BPA-large570

Childhood Cancer & Environment

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Between 1975 and 2011, the U.S. has seen a 55% increase in the number of children diagnosed annually with childhood leukemia. Read more from Environmental Health Policy/PSR.

Roxbury New Jersey

Gov. Christie’s Wastegate–His Toxics—Not his Tummy

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This bullying, ignoring his own state laws and regulations, endangering thousands of innocent people, and potentially creating a serious groundwater crisis in the Highlands protect watershed, and wasting taxpayers money adding to the financial strain on the state which just had their bond rating lower is why we named his actions Wastegate.

What kind of a Governor says no, to place one of the state’s most toxic sites on the federal superfund program? And why would the Governor make state taxpayers pay to manage this toxic site rather than moving the costs to the federal government? The state’s finances are in trouble and just had their credit, the state’s bond rating, lowered. Why?

Maybe it could be the Governor has a soft spot for DuPont? The DuPont toxic site in Pompton Lakes is a nightmare. There is mercury in the water, toxic cancer causing chemicals in the air . . . Not just in the outside air but in homes that are downhill from the old DuPont facility. Oh, and yes it has been going on for over 20 years. It won’t cost the state anything to place the site on Superfund. In fact it is costing the taxpayers of NJ to manage the site. Furthermore the site is hurting innocent people. When the power goes off in Pompton Lakes, like when Super Storm Sandy hit, people sit in their homes, with their babies and young children surrounded by toxic chemicals in the air that have been acknowledged by the federal EPA as dangerous. Without power the homeowners “mitigation” fans don’t work to remove the toxics before they enter the house.

Governor Christie says, not to worry. I am in control and will decide who gets to protect the good people of Pompton Lakes. It’s my sandbox and no one can play in it unless I say so. A bully, by any ones gauge.

Ahh but it’s not just the good taxpaying, church going families in Pompton Lakes that Christie is putting in harm’s way, he is doing the same to the families in Roxbury, New Jersey. Christie’s idea was to get a grant to build a solar farm on an old brownfields sites. He wanted it so bad that he actually let the “construction” begin without following his own state laws. He let a convicted felon purchase the property – against the law. Then gave permission to place Super Storm Sandy waste on the cleaned up and closed superfund site. Christie then allowed his agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, to ignore their regulations around the protection of the Highlands critical water protection area. This protected area preserves the quality and quantity of drinking water for the 850,000 people in the Highlands as well as the more than four million people in surrounding areas who depend on Highlands’s water. Today alarms go off regularly to warn residents that the air is so dangerous they should not go outside or should evacuate their homes.

I can almost hear the Governor say, So what if the state has regulations . . . I’m in charge . . . I say what happens. Christie is a Governor who knows what he wants and will take it . . . do it . . . regardless of who gets in his way. It’s time for New Jersey residents to get the Governor under control.

thegoldenspiral.org

Walmart Tackling Toxic Chemicals-Will Their Suppliers Listen?

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By Mike Schade, Mind The Store Campaign Director

Small_489771072Yesterday, Walmart announced a major update to their corporate chemicals policy with the release of their new Sustainable Chemistry Implementation Guide, sending a strong message to suppliers, competing retailers and the chemical industry that toxic chemicals that build up in our bodies linked to cancer, birth defects and learning disabilities have no place in products sold on store shelves.

(Photo Credit: Ron Dauphin via photopin cc)

This is big news, as our Mind the Store campaign has been challenging Walmart and the other top ten US retailers to eliminate the Hazardous 100+ chemicals of high concern from their products.  Yesterday, we responded to the new announcement with this statement.  We congratulate Walmart on expanding their chemicals policy with the release of this new implementation guide.   The million dollar question is – will their suppliers listen?  How will Walmart ensure suppliers actually comply with this important new policy? Here, we take a look at some of the more exciting elements of the expanded policy, as well as some initial thoughts on how the policy can be improved.

Raising the bar for disclosure of chemicals of concern

ShoppingArguably the most exciting elements of Walmart’s policy center on online and product-level disclosure.  We are especially pleased that Walmart will now be requiring suppliers to disclose the presence of toxic chemicals of concern business-to-business through the Wercs, publicly on company websites, and even on product labels (!) beginning in January 2018.   This new requirement should not only provide incentives for manufactures to reduce or eliminate the use of “priority” chemicals, to avoid having to list them on products, but also empower moms and dads to make smarter and healthier shopping choices for their families. The company is also attempting to address chemicals like fragrances, which most companies virtually never disclose.  They recommend that disclosure should include “full disclosure of all ingredients including those typically protected under trade secrets (e.g. fragrances)” as well as “known residuals, contaminants and by-products”.

The question is – will suppliers listen – and how will Walmart actually ensure fragrances and other additives are actually publicly disclosed?

Expanding “Priority” list of chemicals – but what are their top ten?

Walmart is still not disclosing the names of these chemicals for “business reasons”

This past fall, Walmart announced their new chemicals policy and were going to be prioritizing a list of ten chemicals as an initial list of “high priority” chemicals for “continuous reduction, restriction and elimination”, yet the company never disclosed the names of these chemicals.   Unfortunately, Walmart is still not disclosing the names of these chemicals for “business reasons and state that these ten chemicals are “based on (a) authoritative lists, (b) current and pending regulatory lists, (c) high prevalence in Walmart products, and (d) concerns of direct exposure to consumers.” So that leaves about 2 or 3,000 chemicals to choose from.  Hmmmm, any guesses as to what ones they may be?  We are disappointed that Walmart has still not disclosed their initial ten “high priority” chemicals, despite public pledges to do so.  In the interest of transparency, we call on Walmart to reconsider their decision to not disclose these “high priority” chemicals.  After all, American families have the right to know.

On the positive side, Walmart has announced a brand new set of “Walmart Priority Chemicals”, which is comprised of no less than twenty of the most important authoritative lists in the US and internationally identifying chemicals of high concern, such as California Proposition 65, US EPA PBT and chemical action plan chemicals, and the states of Washington and Maine chemicals, demonstrating the significance of state action on chemicals.  We are very pleased that this list includes every single one of the lists we referenced on our Hazardous 100 list, and many more.  While the company did not identify the actually chemicals on these lists, you don’t have to work so hard to find them. This could very well likely include thousands of chemicals, though right now it’s somewhat unclear if every single one of the substances on these lists are included, or not.  By comparison, Target’s policy and list is also very significant, with over 1,000 substances.

Reducing, restricting and eliminating toxic chemicals

Walmart is now calling on suppliers to, reduce, restrict and eliminate these substances.  The policy states that suppliers should:

“Reduce, restrict and eliminate use of priority chemicals using informed substitution principles. Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. have defined a list of authoritative and regulatory lists, which will be made public, to identify “Walmart Priority Chemicals” within the scope of this policy…. All suppliers are expected to reduce, restrict and eliminate use of priority chemicals using informed substitution principles. Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. have defined a list of authoritative and regulatory lists (made publicly available through Appendix 1) to identify “Walmart Priority Chemicals” within the scope of this policy.”

Tracking reduction of chemicals of concern

they will send an e-mail to each supplier indicating which products contain “high priority chemicals”

The company is using the Wercs database/website to notify suppliers when products they sell contain either a “Walmart Priority Chemical” or “Walmart High Priority Chemical”.  Using the Wercs system, they will send an e-mail to each supplier indicating which products contain “high priority chemicals” and in the future, any time a product entered contains a “priority” or “high priority” chemical, the supplier will automatically be notified.  They will also use the Wercs database to track the number of priority chemicals in products, as well as their reduction, using various metrics including quantifying reductions by weight, number of products, number of suppliers, and sales volume.

The company also plans to publicly report their progress on transparency, advancing safer formulation of products and DfE certification in the company’s 2016 Global Responsibility Report.

Getting off the toxic treadmill

Another significant element of their expanded policy is that Walmart is for the first time encouraging their suppliers to get off the toxic treadmill, and avoid “regrettable substitution” by evaluating the hazards of replacement chemicals and embracing best in class “informed substitution” and  “alternatives assessment” principles.   Walmart states:

“Informed substitution is the considered transition from a chemical of particular concern to safer chemicals or non-chemical alternatives [1]. Using informed substitution principles will mitigate hazard risks associated with product formulation and achieve compliance with Walmart’s Policy on Sustainable Chemistry in Consumables…In the aim of advancing safer formulated products and promoting informed substitution, Walmart recommends the major tenets of Alternatives Assessment, a process for identifying, comparing and selecting safer alternatives to priority chemicals (including those in materials, processes or technologies) on the basis of their hazards, performance, and economic viability[1][2]…”

In their guide, they cite many great resources, such as the Pharos Chemical and Material Library, BizNGO’s Chemical Alternatives Assessment Protocol, and the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production’s  Alternatives Assessment Protocol. It’ll be interesting to see whether suppliers listen, and use these useful tools.  It’s not easy, but it can be done.

What’s good for our pets is good for our children

4103103448_982ca1cc4c_mThe policy impacts a number of categories of products sold at Walmart and Sam’s Clubs stores in the US, primarily cleaning products, cosmetics and personal care products, infant products, and pet supplies.  This is a good list of products to start with, and we hope Walmart will expand this over time to all other categories where chemicals of high concern are often found, such as children’s toys, apparel, furniture, electronics, and food packaging.

(Photo Credit: rumpleteaser via photopin cc)

We also hope Walmart will expand this policy to their stores globally.  As a company that has enormous power and influence over their supply chain, if they can do it in the US, why not the rest of the world? Families worldwide deserve the same protections.

Will other retailers Mind the Store?

Today’s new announcement should be a call to action to other big box retailers, grocery stores, and drug store chains.  We call on the other leading top ten retailers to join Walmart to Mind the Store and get tough on toxic chemicals.   After all, with great market power comes great responsibility.

We look forward to working with Walmart and the other nine leading retailers to create similar action plans on the Hazardous 100+ list of toxic chemicals in the months to come.

Join us and share this good news with your friends.