PVC

pvc

Recycled Vinyl Can Reintroduce Chemical Hazards Into Building Products

Print

“Today’s announcement by Home Depot that it will require manufacturers to phase out phthalate plasticizers from all of the vinyl flooring products it sells was the latest in a long history of efforts to eliminate hazardous additives from vinyl building products. But this does not mean that all phthalate-free vinyl floors (and other PVC products) are now free of potential concerns for building occupants.

Healthy Building Network (HBN) research found that recycled PVC used in building products usually contains legacy toxic hazards like lead, cadmium, and phthalates. (PVC is short for polyvinyl chloride, or “vinyl.”) We reveal this and more in our new report, Post-Consumer Polyvinyl Chloride in Building Products, published today.

HBN examined the supply chain for vinyl flooring. We discovered that post-consumer PVC used in flooring is more likely to come from insulation jackets stripped from old cables and wires than from discarded vinyl flooring.[1] These jackets typically contain high levels of heavy metals, problematic plasticizers, and even PCBs – substances that building product manufacturers have worked to eliminate from their consumer products in recent years.

While we tracked the recycled PVC supply chain, the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Ecology Center[2] tested scores of vinyl floors sold by retail stores. They shared their results with HBN and generously allowed us to debut their findings in this report.

The Ecology Center tests revealed content previously unknown to the public. Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device on 74 floors, the Ecology Center determined that each inner layer likely contained electrical and electronic PVC waste.[3] And the recycled PVC had surprisingly high levels of heavy metals. In at least 69% of the floors’ inner layers, lead was present above the concentrations allowed in children’s toys. The XRF tests detected as much as 2% cadmium and 1% lead. This is a lot of lead and cadmium.

As PVC products age, they can release heavy metals. In 1996, the Consumer Products Safety Commission found that surface lead levels of 1.23 percent in deteriorating PVC mini-blinds “were high enough to present a lead poisoning hazard to children 6 years of age and younger if they ingested small amounts of dust from the blinds over a short period of time. Some states have identified children with elevated blood lead levels attributable to vinyl mini-blinds.”[4]

Few PVC recycling operations, whether small-scale or industrial, screen their inputs for toxicants. A recycling consortium in Europe acknowledges that phthalates and heavy metals remain in the recycled PVC feedstocks that they currently produce, and that these substances are present above regulatory thresholds of concern.

Over the past year, HBN has been examining the supply chain of recycled feedstocks in conjunction with StopWaste, a public agency responsible for reducing the waste stream in Alameda County, CA, and with support from the San Francisco Department of the Environment. Our collaboration’s goal is to identify the best practices for optimizing recycled materials – to increase recycling rates while minimizing toxic content – that can be used in building products.[5]

Wes Sullens of StopWaste is optimistic about the future of recycling. “While HBN’s research has identified some serious problems with certain sources of recycled PVC, it also identifies opportunities to clean it up for use in building products,” he notes. “Manufacturers and suppliers have shown the ability to screen, eliminate or minimize problematic ingredients that can affect the quality of future recycled content feedstocks. I am excited by this convergence of interests, and its potential to create higher-value and healthier products.”

Watch our next newsletter for the good news about what PVC flooring manufacturers are doing to address these issues.

Funding for research on post-consumer PVC feedstock was provided by StopWaste and donors to the Healthy Building Network (HBN). An evaluative framework to optimize recycling developed by StopWaste, the San Francisco Department of the Environment, and HBN, guided our research. Today’s post-consumer recycled PVC evaluation is a prequel to a forthcoming white paper by this new collaboration. It will identify pathways to optimize the benefits of using post-consumer recycled feedstocks in building products sold in the Bay Area of California and beyond.”

vinyl flooring

Home Depot banning toxic phthalates in flooring

Print

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families has some GREAT news to share from their Mind the Store campaign! Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, is banning added phthalates in their vinyl flooring! The Mind the Store campaign has been working with the retailer to develop this policy over the past year.

A report at HealthyStuff.org shows other retailers like Lowe’s, Lumber Liquidators, and Ace Hardware are still carrying flooring with these harmful chemicals. They found that 58% of vinyl flooring tested at top retailers contains these harmful chemicals, which have been linked to asthma and birth defects in baby boys.

What’s worse — phthalates don’t stay in flooring – they get into the air and dust we breathe in our homes, and then make their way into our bodies. While Home Depot is banning added phthalates in its flooring products, when Lowe’s, the US’ second largest home improvement retailer, was asked whether it had a policy on phthalates it responded that it did not. If Home Depot can ban phthalates in flooring, so should Lowe’s!

TAKE ACTION: Tell Lowe’s to eliminate toxic phthalates in flooring.

Today is a day to celebrate, to thank Home Depot for the bold steps they have taken, and challenge Lowe’s and other home improvement retailers to join Home Depot in getting toxic phthalates out of flooring. Will you join us?


Act Now!

mouse

The phthalate DEHP undermines female fertility in mice

Print

Two studies in mice add to the evidence that the phthalate DEHP, a plasticizing agent used in auto upholstery, baby toys, building materials and many other consumer products, can undermine female reproductive health, in part by disrupting the growth and function of the ovaries.

In the first study, reported in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, researchers found that exposing pregnant mice to DEHP increased the male-to-female sex ratio of their pups. Reproductive outcomes for the pups also were altered. About one in four of those exposed to DEHP in the womb took longer to become pregnant and/or lost some of their own pups.

The second study, reported in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, revealed that DEHP disrupts the growth and function of in the adult ovary. Exposure to DEHP increased the production of proteins that inhibit growth and promote degradation of the follicles, and decreased the production of steroid hormones, the researchers found.

“The follicles are the structures that contain the egg, and if you’re killing those, you may have fertility issues,” said University of Illinois comparative biosciences professor Jodi Flaws, who led both studies. “The bottom line is that DEHP may damage the follicles and impair the ability of the ovary to make sex steroids like estrogens and androgens, which are really important for reproduction.”

Most of the research conducted so far on the reproductive effects of phthalates has focused on males, “because phthalates are thought to interfere with the androgen system,” Flaws said.

“Studies that were done on females historically used very high doses of chemicals that aren’t environmentally relevant,” she said. “So our work has been to focus on the female and on environmentally relevant doses that people might see, either in the environment or occupationally or medically.”

It is important to evaluate lower phthalate doses because they reflect real-world exposures, and also because low doses of endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates can have more serious consequences than high doses, Flaws said.

“Sometimes it’s at the low doses that you have the most profound effects, and that’s what we’re seeing with the ,” she said.

These studies are among several initiatives of the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at the U. of I., which is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Explore further: BPA exposure affects fertility in next three generations of mice

More information: Reproductive Toxicology Volume 53, June 2015, Pages 23–32. DOI: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2015.02.013
Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology Volume 284, Issue 1, 1 April 2015, Pages 42–53 DOI: 10.1016/j.taap.2015.02.010

traffic

Scientists warn of hormone impacts from benzene, xylene, other common solvents

Print

Researchers warn that benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene may disrupt people’s hormone systems at levels deemed “safe” by feds

April 15, 2015

By Brian Bienkowski
Environmental Health News

Four chemicals present both inside and outside homes might disrupt our endocrine systems at levels considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to an analysis released today.

The chemicals – benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene – are ubiquitous: in the air outside and in many products inside homes and businesses. They have been linked to reproductive, respiratory and heart problems, as well as smaller babies. Now researchers from The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) and the University of Colorado, Boulder, say that such health impacts may be due to the chemicals’ ability to interfere with people’s hormones at low exposure levels.

TEDx MidAtlantic
Theo Colborn, who passed away last December, was a co author on the new study.

“There’s evidence of connection between the low level, everyday exposures and things like asthma, reduced fetal growth,” said Ashley Bolden, a research associate at TEDX and lead author of the study. “And for a lot of the health effects found, we think it’s disrupted endocrine-signaling pathways involved in these outcomes.”

Bolden and colleagues – including scientist, activist, author and TEDX founder Theo Colborn who passed away last December – pored over more than 40 studies on the health impacts of low exposure to the chemicals.

“Hormones are how the body communicates with itself. Interrupt that, you can expect all sorts of negative health outcomes.”-Susan Nagel, University of Missouri-Columbia(Colborn also co-authored “Our Stolen Future” along with Dianne Dumanoski and Pete Myers, founder of Environmental Health News and chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences.)

They looked at exposures lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s reference concentrations for the chemicals, which is the agency’s estimated inhalation exposure level that is not likely to cause health impacts during a person’s lifetime.

Many of the health problems – asthma, low birth weights, cardiovascular, disease, preterm births, abnormal sperm – can be rooted in early disruptions to the developing endocrine system, Bolden said.

The analysis doesn’t prove that exposure to low levels of the chemicals disrupt hormones. However, any potential problems with developing hormone systems are cause for concern.

“Hormones are how the body communicates with itself to get work done. Interrupt that, you can expect all sorts of negative health outcomes,” said Susan Nagel an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

Cathy Milbourn, a spokesperson for the EPA, said in an emailed response that the agency will “review the study and incorporate the findings into our work as appropriate.”

The “EPA is screening thousands of chemicals for potential risk of endocrine disruption,” she said. “As potential risk of endocrine disruption is identified, these chemicals are assessed further.”

The four chemicals are retrieved from the wellheads during crude oil and natural gas extraction and, after refining, are used as gasoline additives and in a wide variety of consumer products such as adhesives, detergents, degreasers, dyes, pesticides, polishes and solvents.

Ethylbenzene is one of the top ten chemicals used in children’s products such as toys and playground equipment, according to a 2013 EPA report. Toluene is in the top ten chemicals used in consumer products such as fuels and paints, the report found.

All four get into indoor and outdoor air via fossil fuel burning, vehicle emissions and by volatizing from products. Bolden said studies that measure the air in and around homes and businesses find the chemicals 90 to 95 percent of the time.

Katie Brown, spokeswoman for Energy in Depth, a program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said in an email that the study suggests “products deemed safe by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission are more dangerous than oil and gas development.

joiseyshowaa/flickr
Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene are added to gasoline and emitted to the air during combustion.

“Contrary to their intentions, what this report actually shows is that people should be no more afraid of oil and gas development than products in their home,” she said.

The Consumer Specialty Products Association, a trade group that represents companies that manufacturer consumer goods including cleaning products, pesticides, polishes, would not comment on the study but a spokesperson said that member groups typically don’t use the chemicals mentioned.

In several of the monitoring studies Bolden and colleagues examined, levels of the chemicals were higher in indoor air than in outdoor air, suggesting that people might be exposed within their homes.

“A lot of time indoor air is poorly circulated,” Bolden said.

Nagel cited a “huge need” to look at the impact of exposure to ambient levels of these chemicals. The study highlights “a whole lot we don’t know” about how these compounds may impact humans, she said.

Using human tissue cells, Nagel’s lab has previously shown that the chemicals can disrupt the androgen and estrogen hormones.

The authors said regulators should give air contaminants the same attention they’ve given greenhouse gas emissions recently.

“Tremendous efforts have led to the development of successful regulations focused on controlling greenhouse gases in an attempt to reduce global temperatures,” the authors wrote in the study published today in Environmental Science and Technology journal.

“Similar efforts need to be directed toward compounds that cause poor air quality both indoors and outdoors.”

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.


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

scale justice

Court Deems Lumber Liquidators’ Case a “SLAPP” Suit

Print

Court Throws Out Lumber Liquidators’ Lawsuit Against Environmental Group

Orders Flooring Giant to Pay Attorneys’ Fees and Costs

Yesterday a California environmental advocacy group won a resounding Court judgment against flooring giant Lumber Liquidators’ claims of defamation. In a 21-page decision, a judge ruled that Lumber Liquidators’ lawsuit against Global Community Monitor (GCM) was a strategic lawsuit against public participation and a clear violation of California’s anti-SLAPP law.

The court battle stemmed from a Proposition 65 lawsuit GCM filed last year against the company for high levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde found in Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by the company. Lumber Liquidators responded with a defamation suit, which was struck down yesterday.

“Lumber Liquidators tried to silence us and the court saw through it,” stated Denny Larson, Executive Director of Global Community Monitor. “The court recognized that we have a constitutional right to free speech. The public likewise has a right to know if any product they buy may be harmful to their families’ health.”

California’s anti-SLAPP statute provides for the “early dismissal of unmeritorious claims filed to interfere with the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances.” As Judge Carvill noted in his decision, “The anti-SLAPP statute is ‘construed broadly’ to achieve its goal of ensuring that ‘participation in matters of public significance’ is not ‘chilled through abuse of the judicial process.’” The judge goes on to conclude that Lumber Liquidators did not present sufficient evidence to show that its defamation-based claims against GCM “have any likelihood of success.”

In addition, the Court found that GCM is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in defending the meritless SLAPP suit. GCM’s attorney, Richard Drury of Lozeau Drury LLP stated, “This is a good day for free speech and for the consumers of the State of California who are concerned that Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators contains cancer-causing formaldehyde far above levels allowed by law.”

Gibbs Ohio

Board of Directors Announce Lois Gibbs Shifting Energy To Field

Print

The Board of Directors of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) is pleased to s, our founder and Executive Director, has accepted the opportunity to shift the focus of her work to our newly created Leadership Training Academy program.

To maintain our momentum in supporting community-based environmental health and justice work, we have begun the formal search for the next grassroots leader with excellent training and management skills and a vision of powerful action – our successor Executive Director. To support the Board in the search process, CHEJ has engaged Democracy Partners. Our process of outreach and selection begins very soon. Questions or suggestions should be directed to Cheri Whiteman by e-mail at cheriwhiteman@democracypartners.com.

Lois Gibbs will shift her full-time attention away from her current day-to-day administrative responsibilities with the engagement of our next Executive Director, which is expected to occur this summer. “I’m excited to spend more time in the field to build the advocacy base for change!” said Lois, “and it’s a great opportunity for one of the emerging community leaders out there to take CHEJ to the next level!”

CHEJ has launched the Leadership Training Academy program to strengthen and sustain the infrastructure of fledgling environmental health and justice organizations in the United States.

CHEJ recently completed a strategic review and refocus of our work. We were aided as a Board in this process by a group of allies and advisors, and our retreat was facilitated by Jim Abernathy. In examining our work, the following important findings led CHEJ’s Board to take those steps to reshape the organization to meet the increasing demand from the field for Leadership Training Academy program services:

• There are more local, state and regional groups emerging than in the past. This is due primarily to energy-related proposals and activities such as pipelines, extraction wells, export terminals and associated waste disposal.

• Established groups are growing and looking for advice on long-term organizing, establishing collaborative efforts, Board development and establishing a three-year strategic organizational plan.

Lois describes the Academy program this way: “The Leadership Training Academy is a training center ‘without walls.’ It provides a distinctive brand of leadership skills-building training and mentoring of local group leaders around the country to build the base of the environmental health and justice movement. This program is based on a proven, time-tested methodological framework that is grounded in CHEJ’s 34 years of grassroots leadership and coaching experience, campaign strategy knowledge and the tactics of successful grassroots victories. A special focus of the training activities is with thousands of women leading grassroots groups on a range of environmental health and economic justice issues. People of color, young people and women together comprise what many call the ‘emerging American electorate,’ and it is they who will both determine environmental and economic policy, and live with the consequences of the decisions.”

I personally am excited to “free Lois” to spend more of her energy in the field, and the Board of Directors looks forward to working with new leadership. We’ve always known that success comes when we learn from the past and step boldly into the future. With a new CHEJ Executive Director and our legendary friend and teacher, Lois Gibbs, we will have the best of both worlds!

Thank you,

Peter B. Sessa
CHEJ Board Chair

5-My-Little-Pony-Getty

Toys from the Seventies and Eighties could be poisoning your children

Print

Nostalgia can be dangerous! Before passing on old toys to your children, consider new research that has found contaminants like arsenic, lead and cadmium in plastic toys from decades ago.

Read More.

plasticbottles

EU Commission plans to restrict phthalates

Print

The European Commission has notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it intends to restrict the phthalates DEHP, BBP, DBP and DiBP under the revised EU Directive on the restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS2) in electrical and electronic equipment (CW 7 February 2014).

Read More!

Chemical Exposures and Health Care Costs

Print

A new economic analysis has concluded that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely costs the European Union €157 billion ($209 billion U.S.) a year in actual health care expenses and lost earning potential, according to a new series of studies published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

A total of four papers were published (overview, neurobehavioralmale reproduction and obesity & diabetes) that focused on specific health conditions that can partly be attributed to endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) exposure. These included infertility and male reproductive dysfunction, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurobehavioural and learning disorders. A team of eighteen researchers from eight countries led by Leonardo Trasande, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine & Population Health at NYU Medical Center, were involved in this landmark initiative.

EDCs interfere with numerous hormone functions and are commonly found in thousands of household products including plastics made with vinyl, electronics, pesticides, and cosmetics.

The overview paper concluded that “EDC exposures in the EU are likely to contribute substantially to disease and dysfunction across the life course with costs in the hundreds of billions per year. These estimates represent only those EDCs with the highest probability of causation; a broader analysis would have produced greater estimates of burden of disease and costs.”

The papers were prepared in conjunction with an evaluation being done by the EU Commission of the economic impact to industry of regulating EDCs in Europe. According to the authors, “Our goal here is to estimate the health and economic benefit of regulating EDCs in Europe, based on current evidence.”

The expert panels put together for this analysis “achieved consensus for probable (20%) EDC causation for IQ loss and associated intellectual disability, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, childhood obesity, adult obesity, adult diabetes, cryptorchidism, male infertility, and mortality associated with reduced T.”

“The analysis demonstrates just how staggering the cost of widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure is to society,” said Leonardo Trasande, the lead author in a press statement released by the Endocrine Society. “This research crystalizes more than three decades of lab and population-based studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the EU.”

The press release goes on to say:

In the EU, researchers found the biggest cost driver was loss of IQ and intellectual disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to pesticides containing organophosphates. The study estimated the harm done to unborn children costs society between €46.8 billion and €195 billion a year. About 13 million lost IQ points and 59,300 additional cases of intellectual disability per year can be attributed to organophosphate exposure.

“Adult obesity linked to phthalate exposure generated the second-highest total, with estimated costs of €15.6 billion a year.

“Our findings show that limiting exposure to the most common and hazardous endocrine-disrupting chemicals is likely to yield significant economic benefits,” said one of the study’s authors, Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD, Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and Adjunct Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “This approach has the potential to inform decision-making in the environmental health arena. We are hoping to bring the latest endocrine science to the attention of policymakers as they weigh how to regulate these toxic chemicals.”

The impact of this paper is staggering. It should be a “wake up call” said Linda Birnbaum, Director of the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences when asked about the results. It also provides more evidence that low level exposure to chemicals found in everyday household products is affecting the health of many people not just in the Europe, but worldwide.

toxic hot seat

Toxic Hot Seat Screening TODAY!

Print

The International Association of Firefighters is hosting a screening of the film, “Toxic Hot Seat” in Washington D.C. tomorrow. We hope you can join them!

What: Toxic Hot Seat Film Screening
When: Monday March 9, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Where: Hyatt Capitol Hill, Congressional B Room – Lobby Level, Washington, D.C