pvc-free

halloween

Tips for a Toxic-Free Halloween

Print

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!

Chemicals of Concern

Solutions to Hazardous Plasticizers

Print

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.

Dow Chemicals Vinyl Plant in Freeport, TX.Photo: Greenpeace USA 2011

10,000 Schools Located Half Mile From Chemical Facility

Print

By Kate Sheppard http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-sheppard
A new study released Wednesday finds there are almost 10,000 schools across the country located within a mile of a chemical facility.

The research was released ahead of the April 17 anniversary of an explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant, which killed 15 people and injured hundreds of others. The explosion left many people wondering why schools and homes were located so close to the plant.

The report finds that 4.6 million children attend a school located within a mile of a facility that stores potentially risky chemicals.

The research, from the nonprofit organization Center for Effective Government, maps the facilities covered under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Plan Rule. That rule requires all companies that process, distribute or store certain toxic or flammable chemicals to create and submit an emergency plan. It must describe the potential impacts of an accident, the facility’s accident history, what emergency responders need to know to treat anyone impacted by an accident and any prevention measures that are in place.

There are 12,761 facilities in the U.S. that had registered plans under RMP as of May 2013, including storage facilities, refineries and factories. The RMP rule covers a number of potentially dangerous chemicals. Ammonium nitrate, the chemical that caused the West Fertilizer Co. disaster, is not a listed substance under RMP, but the chemicals used in its production are, as well as certain processes that use ammonium nitrate. The Center for Effective Government report pulls together EPA information on facilities that report under RMP along with school location information from the National Center for Education Statistics.

“The number of children who are potentially in harm’s way is deeply troubling,” Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the center, said in a statement.
The center has called for tougher standards for disclosing the presence of chemicals, more oversight and more expansive emergency response planning. It is also calling for inherently safer chemicals and processes whenever possible. The federal government is still in the process of creating policies to respond to last year’s explosion; representatives from a number of agencies released a list of proposals in January.

The report is packaged as an interactive map and also uses U.S. Census Bureau data to show the racial and economic profile of residents in the area around the chemical facilities. Users can search the map by school name, city or state.

This article has been edited to clarify that ammonium nitrate is not specifically listed in the EPA Risk Management Plan rule, but chemicals used in its production are.

6a01347fee3a9c970c0134819b5813970c-800wi

Chemicals + Children’s Exposure = Obesity

Print

Following up on the recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives which discussed endocrine disruptors that are sometimes added to PVC plastic cause mice to grow obese and suffer liver problems, Nicholas Kristof from the NY Times wrote a great opinion piece about why this is important. He also made a point about how journalist are missing these health related  stories which are important.

Read his article.


CHEJ has been working to clean up the toy and childrens/mothers consumer products for decades. It is time to move quicker we can’t just take off market one chemical/product at a time. Chemical Policy reforms must move faster in Washington, D.C.

This vinyl school image

NY PTA Passes Resolution to Phase-out PVC in Schools

Print

The New York State Parents Teachers Association (PTA) voted last week at their annual meeting in Saratoga Springs, NY to pass a resolution calling for a phase out of the plastic PVC in schools. The resolution, called “Reducing & Phasing Out the Purchase of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Plastic in New York Schools,” acknowledged the serious harm posed by PVC throughout its lifecycle, releasing toxic chemicals such as phthalates during use in products such as school supplies and building materials; releasing toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride and ethylene dichloride during manufacture; and generating toxic chemicals such as dioxins during disposal when burned.

The PTA’s resolution recognized that chronic health problems and conditions in children linked to environmental exposures are on the rise, including learning and developmental disorders; that children are uniquely vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals such as those released by PVC; that PVC materials and products contain toxic additives, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and phthalates, that may be released into the indoor environment, posing hazards to human health including asthma and developmental problems and that children are at greatest risk of exposure; that PVC is commonly found in office supplies and building materials used in schools; that safer, cost-effective alternatives to PVC products are readily available for schools; and that the U.S. Green Building Council provides incentives for schools to avoid PVC and phthalates in “green schools.”

The NYS PTA resolution calls for the following actions:

  • Resolved that the New York State Congress of Parents and Teachers, Inc. seek and support legislation that would reduce and phase out the use of PVC products at all New York State school facilities; and be it further
  • Resolved that the New York State PTA urge school districts and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to develop green procurement policies to reduce and phase out the use and purchase of PVC building materials and office and education supplies in school facilities where safer cost effective alternatives are available; and be it further
  • Resolved that the New York State PTA and its constituent units educate parents and community members about the potential health effects of PVC and work to eliminate PVC products at all PTA-sponsored events; and be it further
  • Resolved that the New York State PTA forward this resolution to the National PTA for its consideration.

This resolution adds to the growing movement for PVC-free schools and follows similar resolutions enacted by the American Public Health Association (APHA), the “oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world,” last year and by the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union that represents more than 600,000 employees and retirees from New York State schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities, this past summer. The full PTA resolution can be read at the following link: http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/NYS-PTA-PVC-Resolution.pdf.

hh3-1

New Report: Hidden Toxic Chemicals Found in Children’s “Back-to-School” Supplies

Print

Did you know toxic phthalates may be in your children’s back-to-school supplies?  Our brand new report, Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies found toxic chemicals linked to asthma and birth defects widespread in children’s vinyl back-to-school supplies.

Seventy-five percent of children’s “back-to-school” supplies tested in a laboratory had elevated levels of toxic phthalates, including popular Disney, Spiderman, and Dora branded school supplies, such as vinyl lunchboxes, backpacks, 3-ring binders, raincoats, and rainboots.

The levels of phthalates found in children’s school supplies would be illegal if these products were toys. Just like toys, school supplies are used by young children that are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposure.

Key resources for Hidden Hazards report:


Find safer products for your children this back-to-school season!

The good news is there are plenty of safer alternatives available.  The 2012 Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies, a guide to safer school supplies in over 40 product categories, was also released today to empower parents to find safer children’s back-to-school supplies:

To download these web banners, first open them up by clicking on the links below, then, in your web browser, “right click” on the image and choose “save image as” or “save picture as”.  When you post them on your site, we recommend they link to http://bit.ly/nopvc12

thegoldenspiral.org

Trace chemicals in everyday food packaging cause worry over cumulative threat

Print

If the food’s in plastic, what’s in the food?


menshealth.com


By Susan Freinkel, The Washington Post

In a study published last year in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers put five San Francisco families on a three-day diet of food that hadn’t been in contact with plastic. When they compared urine samples before and after the diet, the scientists were stunned to see what a difference a few days could make: The participants’ levels of bisphenol A (BPA), which is used to harden polycarbonate plastic, plunged — by two-thirds, on average — while those of the phthalate DEHP, which imparts flexibility to plastics, dropped by more than half.

The findings seemed to confirm what many experts suspected: Plastic food packaging is a major source of these potentially harmful chemicals, which most Americans harbor in their bodies. Other studies have shown phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) passing into food from processing equipment and food-prep gloves, gaskets and seals on non-plastic containers, inks used on labels — which can permeate packaging — and even the plastic film used in agriculture.

The government has long known that tiny amounts of chemicals used to make plastics can sometimes migrate into food. The Food and Drug Administration regulates these migrants as “indirect food additives” and has approved more than 3,000 such chemicals for use in food-contact applications since 1958. It judges safety based on models that estimate how much of a given substance might end up on someone’s dinner plate. If the concentration is low enough (and when these substances occur in food, it is almost always in trace amounts), further safety testing isn’t required.

Meanwhile, however, scientists are beginning to piece together data about the ubiquity of chemicals in the food supply and the cumulative impact of chemicals at minute doses. What they’re finding has some health advocates worried.

Read More…

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garymacfadyen

NYC: Phase Out Toxic PVC Plastic, a Major Source of Dioxin

Print

For Immediate Release: Thursday March 29, 2012 Contact: Mike Schade, 212-964-3680, mike@chej.org

After Four Years of Delay, NYC Issues Landmark “Green Purchasing” Rules for City Agencies to Reduce Dioxin, One of the Most Toxic Chemicals Known to Science

Environmental, Public Health, Labor Groups Call on Bloomberg Administration to Phase Out Toxic PVC Plastic, a Major Source of Dioxin

(New York, NY) At a major public hearing held today by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS), environmental health, labor, and pediatric medical organizations and experts testified and called on the Bloomberg administration to fully implemen t a “green purchasing” law 7 years in the making, by phasing out the purchase of toxic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garymacfadyen


The NYC 2005 Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) laws called for the development of City regulations to reduce the purchase of products by City agencies that release toxic dioxin when burned.   Dioxin is linked to cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, birth defects, endometriosis, and infertility, and is widely considered to be the most toxic synthetic chemical. The 2005 law was intended to reduce NYC’s purchase of products containing PVC that form dioxin. After more than four years of delay, the EPP rules were released on February 27th, yet do not address NYC’s purchase of PVC products.

“We are very concerned that the proposed dioxin regulations do not address NYC’s purchase of PVC plastic, a major and preventable source of dioxin,” said Daniel Gradess, Organizer with the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ). “The New York Academy of Sciences and New York State Attorney General’s Office have both documented PVC as a significant dioxin source.  The Bloomberg Administration has an opportunity to lead the nation in reducing the purchase of this unnecessary toxic plastic harmful to children’s health.”

“Fire Officers take an oath to “protect the lives and property of the citizens of New York City” and there is an ongoing interest to the public if laws regarding the purchasing and use of PVC products by the city are not being complied with,” said Captain Alexander Hagan, President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA). “PVC is among the most serious dangers to humans and the environment when it is burned.  It releases dioxin, which is widely considered to be one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet, and virtually every resident of NYC has measurable levels of dioxin in their bodies.  From a fire perspective, we urge compliance of the City to ensure an environmentally friendly purchasing process.”

Groups testifying at today’s hearing included representatives of the Learning Disabilities Association of NYS; Children’s Environmental Health Center of Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Sierra Club NYC Chapter; New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH); CWA Healthcare Coordinating Council; Perkins and Will Architectural Firm; the Center for Health, Environment & Justice; Center for Environmental Health; Ironbound Community Corporation; Food and Water Watch; and others.  Many other groups submitted written comments on the proposed regulations, including the Uniformed Firefighters Officers Association (UFOA); United Federation of Teachers (UFT); NYS Nurses Association (NYSNA); American Sustainable Business Council; the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; Healthy Schools Network; NYPIRG; and Health Care Without Harm.

Safer, cost-effective alternatives are readily available for NYC agencies to purchase. Major corporations such as Google, Apple, Target, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Microsoft have policies to reduce or phase out the purchase of PVC.  The NYC Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS) and Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) have both begun to make voluntary progress by reducing the purchase of PVC products:

  • NYC purchases its computers off of state contracts, which require all computers to be free of PVC in large plastic parts.
  • In January, MOCS announced it is working with Staples to reduce the purchase of PVC office supplies by City Agencies.
  • In March, DCAS issued a request for bids for a new NYC carpet contract. This multi-year, multi-million dollar contract states that all carpets sold to NYC must be completely PVC-free.

Advocates today called on the Bloomberg Administration to codify these voluntary efforts into the proposed environmentally preferable purchasing regulations.

“The incidence of learning disability and related neurological impairment such as autism, is increasing at an unprecedented rate,” said, Stephen Boese, Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of New York State. “Research shows that a substantial part of this increase is attributable to environmental factors.  Meanwhile, many chemicals known or suspected to cause neurological impairment remain largely unregulated by the federal government.  As advocates for persons with learning disabilities and related impairments, the Learning Disabilities Association of New York State supports initiatives that prevent disability.   We therefore urge that the City of New York assure that its purchasing policies excludes products with harmful plastics like PVC that release dioxin, wherever feasible, and protect the health and well-being of city workers, those in the care of city programs, and all other city residents.”

Jean Grassman, a Board Member with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), said, “When buildings containing materials made of PVC burn, firefighters, other “first responders”, building occupants, and the surrounding community face exposure to dioxins, benzene, phosgene, hydrochloric acid and other hazardous substances which place them at risk of acute and chronic health effects. Exposure to a single PVC fire can cause permanent respiratory disease.”

“It is our belief that products that are harmful to humans, animals, and the environment should not be used in our projects, and to that end, we advise our clients to seek alternatives to substances such as PVC,” said Peter Syrett, Architect and Associate Principal at Perkins+Will.

Larry McCormick is an officer of the CWA Healthcare Coordinating Council (HCC), a network for two dozen union locals in New York and New Jersey that represent 15,000 healthcare workers. He notes, “The HCC urges New York to phase out the purchase of PVC.  We put our patients first, and we believe a PVC phase out will help reduce cancer, learning disabilities, infertility, birth defects, and diabetes in those we care for.”

“Phasing PVC plastic out of City purchasing is the right move for New Yorkers’ health and environment,” said Irene Van Slyvke, Vice President of the Sierra Club New York City Group.  “We should act now to prioritize nontoxic, cost-effective alternatives to PVC, rather than continuing to pay for the healthcare costs associated with dioxin exposure.”

Ellen Weininger, Educational Outreach Coordinator for Grassroots Environmental Education, said, “The best way to avoid the negative human health and environmental impacts and economic burden of toxic exposures is to minimize the production and purchase of toxic products.  Children and their parents rely on government officials to provide the protections they need for their health and safety.  The stakes are too high to deliver anything less than the full implementation of a PVC-free procurement plan for New York City.”

“When buyers demand safer products, the market responds,” said Ansje Miller, Eastern States Director, of the Center for Environmental Health. “By phasing out the poison plastic PVC, NYC will create a global market for safer electronics and other products, creating a healthier environment for workers, consumers, and all New Yorkers.”

Claire Barnett, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network, said, “With every manufacturer advertising products as green, it is hard for cities and states to determine what is green and what is merely green washing. Mindful of the public health effects of chemicals in products and the rising epidemics of asthma and learning problems, we urge the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services to take more care to ensure that the products it specs are truly healthy and green. Relying on third party certifiers will do that.”

Thursday’s public hearing concludes a 30-day public comment period, and comes on the heels of a January 2012 NYC Council oversight hearing examining NYC’s compliance with the green purchasing laws.

###

ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: For copies of testimony delivered at today’s hearing, or additional background information, please contact Mike Schade, CHEJ at mike@chej.org / 212.964.3680.

To download the NYC proposed environmentally preferable purchasing regulations, visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycrules/downloads/rules/P_MOCS_2.24.12_A.pdf

To download the original legislation and 2005 City Council voting report that discusses the relationship between PVC and dioxin, visit http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/12-21-05-Voting-Report-Int-544-A-Hazardous.pdf

jumpinghorse

NYC’s Schools Plan to go Green in the Great Indoors

Print

The city recently released 25 pages of proposed regulations that would impact construction, renovation and maintenance practices in hundreds of city-owned and -leased buildings and other spaces. The new rules require materials, supplies and equipment to be more environmentally friendly — either less toxic, more energy-efficient or more recycled. Read more.

kidmask

CNN Spotlights Indoor Air Quality Impact on Student Learning

Print

An estimated 14 million American children attend public schools that are in urgent need of  extensive repair or replacement and have unhealthy environmental conditions, including poor air quality, unsafe drinking water and inadequate safety systems. This weekend, CNN will spotlight the dire condition of schools and the health hazards posed by poor indoor air quality. [Read More]

CNN’s report on indoor air quality in schools airs on Saturday, January 14 at 8 p.m., 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET.  The program will re-air again at the same times on Sunday, January 15.

Visit CHEJ’s Focus on Schools webpage to get more information about threats to the school environment and how you can take action.

Contact Makia Burns, CHEJ’s Childproofing Our Communities Campaign Coordinator at (703) 237-2249 x21 or mburns(at)chej.org for additional information or organizing assistance.