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6 posts from March 2012


FDA misses the mark on BPA

Messy soup_Tom & Katrien_flickrToday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a decision about the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) and its use in food packaging. Their decision affects everyone’s health and our right to be protected from exposure to harmful chemicals in our food, our homes and our environment. The agency ruled that it will not limit the use of BPA in food packaging products.

Photo credit: Tom & Katrien on Flickr

The BPA backstory

I won’t go into a full history of the problems with BPA, because our colleagues at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families have put together a great introduction to the chemical. But I do want to talk about why we are concerned that it is being used in an essentially unregulated manner and in a broad range of products—from the linings of food cans to thermal receipt paper to amalgam dental fillings. An ever-growing body of science continues to find links between the chemical and several harmful health effects, including: diabetes, obesity, breast and prostate cancer.

Several studies were released in 2011 related to the presence of BPA in our food. One study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that eliminating canned and pre-packaged foods from the diet of study participants over a three-day period reduced levels of the chemical in their urine by an average of 60 percent. Another study from The Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating a canned food item once a day can increase levels of BPA up to 1,200 percent. And finally, testing conducted by the Breast Cancer Fund (here and here) revealed that BPA is found in canned foods. Levels of the chemical in each food varied, but in some a single serving contained levels that have been linked with adverse health effects in lab studies.

Current state of affairs: a badly broken system

Several states have taken action in recent years on BPA in everyday products, including Minnesota—the first state in the nation to ban use of the chemical in baby bottles and sippy cups. But why are states compelled to take action on this matter to begin with?

The need for state level action to protect public health stems from the badly broken systems that are meant to keep harmful chemicals off the market, but in fact fail miserably at doing so.

In the case of bisphenol A in food packaging, regulatory authority falls to the U.S. FDA. Today’s decision is the result of a multi-year battle between the agency and NRDC. More than three years ago, NRDC petition the FDA to ban the use of bisphenol A as a food additive. Because the agency did not respond within a reasonable time frame, NRDC mounted a legal action which resulted in a settlement requiring the FDA to render a decision by March 31, 2012. You can read a full account of the process on the NRDC Switchboard Blog.

This delay in and of itself is emblematic of our broken system: even in the face of mounting evidence on the problems associated with BPA, it took the FDA more than three years and a court case to make a ruling on BPA. We need a change: we need policy that protects our health before corporate profits.

The problem of harmful chemicals contaminating our food is only one piece of the puzzle. Problem chemicals are also ending up in our environment and our bodies through exposures to everyday consumer products and chemicals in our environment. Contrary to popular belief, chemicals are not proven safe before they are used in the production of our everyday products. The result? There is no comprehensive oversight of chemicals in the U.S. and we don’t have an adequate system for identifying which chemicals are safe and which ones are harmful.

Get involved!

Given the sad state of policy at the federal level, states will continue to play a key role in protecting the health of our people. But we also need to demand action where our agencies have failed us. Healthy Legacy is a Minnesota-based coalition, co-founded by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, working to phase the use of toxic chemicals out of everyday products. Sign-up now to receive action alerts and to keep up to date with our work.


Quick dinner, hold the BPA!

IIStock_000003484852XSmallt’s already challenging for families to prepare meals at home—with busy schedules, after school activities, long work hours and more, carving out time to not only eat together but also to cook from scratch is a tough task for many of us. So we sometimes turn to ready-made food, right? I know I do.

Unfortunately, sometimes subbing in pre-made meals can affect your exposure to the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupter linked with certain cancers, diabetes and obesity. As if we haven’t already got enough to worry about! So this week’s tip is all about helping you through those times when you need a quick meal, but don’t want to end up with a hefty dose of BPA on the side.

Tip: If you’re short on time and need to fix dinner quick, we recommend opting for frozen pre-made meals instead of those in the can. Canned all-in-one meals have some of the highest levels of BPA of any canned foods. But before you microwave, make sure you pop the food out of the plastic tray and onto a plate. Here’s a video showing how to heat and eat without the plastic.

Of course, these tips are meant to help you make safer choices, but the truth is that we shouldn’t have to constantly studying up on the latest problem chemical to make its way into our products. You can act now and ask the FDA to rule bisphenol A unsafe for use in food packaging.



Cute Baby Friday: March 16, 2012



This week's Cute Baby Friday pic comes to us from Dawn--two cute kiddos to brighten your day!

"Even us big kids have to fight to keep chemicals off of us!"

Act now for safer Chemicals in MN:, and nationally:



Everyday Products contain chemicals linked to hormone disruption and asthma

 By Kathleen Schuler, MPH, Co-Director Healthy Legacy and Senior Policy Analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

image from

Yet another study has found dangerous chemicals in products we and our children use every day. A peer-reviewed study, published last week in Environmental Health Perspectives, detailed testing by the Silent Spring Institute of 213 consumer products, including cleaning products, cosmetics, sunscreens, air fresheners, shower curtains and more, to detect the presence of harmful chemicals. 

 Previous studies have found a variety of harmful chemicals in household dust. The current study helps to identify some of the potential sources of the chemicals showing up there. Unfortunately, incomplete labeling makes this research more difficult. The study found that many of the chemicals detected were not on the product label. 

Researchers found 55 compounds, including the following and many more:

  1. Phthalates in perfumes, car air fresheners, vinyl pillow protectors and shower curtains, dryer sheets, car wax and interior cleaners, tub and tile cleaner, bar soap, shaving cream and lipstick- all unlabeled!
  2. Bisphenol A in vinyl pillow protectors and shower curtains, dish and laundry detergent, tub and tile cleaner, soaps, lotions, shampoo, conditioner and sunscreen - all unlabeled!
  3. Synthetic fragrances in facial cleansers, floor cleaner, sunscreen, perfume, dryer sheets, home and car air fresheners- in 12 of 34 products unlabeled!

Even if consumers read the label, they can’t avoid these “hidden” chemicals.  Consumers need better labeling so they can make safer product choices. But we also need to take steps to remove these harmful chemicals from every day consumer products.

Take action!

This study found unlabeled phthalates and bisphenol A in a variety of products. Both of these chemicals are on the Minnesota Priority Chemicals list, which identifies harmful chemicals that children are most likely to be exposed to. That’s why we need to pass HF2543/SF1766, which requires manufacturers to report if they have a product containing a “priority chemical.” This information will help us inform parents about which products to avoid.

Write to your state senator and representative today, asking them to support the Priority Chemical Reporting Bill!



Some Minnesota jewelry contains harmful chemicals like lead

image from

Healthy Legacy, a statewide public health coalition representing over one million Minnesotans, applauds today’s release of new research on toxic chemicals in low-cost children’s and adult jewelry at by the Ecology Center. Researchers tested for chemicals – including lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, bromine and chlorine (PVC) – which have been linked in animal and some human studies to acute allergies and to long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. Samples were collected from Minnesota and five other states.


Test results

Over half (57 percent) of the products tested had a “high” level of concern due to the presence of one or more hazardous chemicals detected at high levels. Four products contained over ten percent cadmium, a known carcinogen. Fifty percent contained lead, with over half of these containing more than 300 parts per million (ppm) of lead in one or more components, exceeding the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limit of lead in children’s products. Two notable examples include a pendant necklace and silver tiara which contained 17,212 and 10,463 ppm of lead respectively, both purchased from stores in the twin cities metro area.

“There is no excuse for jewelry, especially children’s jewelry, to be made with some of the most well studied and dangerous substances on the planet,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center and founder of “We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately.”

Shouldn't there be a law?

Lead is also banned in children’s jewelry products that are meant for those aged six and under in Minnesota. While not every piece of jewelry tested was geared towards this age group, the potential for children of any age to get hold of these items is high.

“Even though Minnesota has some laws on the books that address toxic heavy metals in children’s products, we continue to find harmful chemicals like lead in items used by kids,” said Kathleen Schuler, Senior Policy Analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and co-director of Healthy Legacy. “That’s why we’re supporting SF 1766, a bill in Minnesota that would require children’s product manufacturers to report the use of nine harmful chemicals, including lead and cadmium, to the state.”

Ninety-nine pieces of jewelry were tested from 14 different retailers, including: Ming 99 City, Burlington Coat Factory, Target, Big Lots, Claire's, Glitter, Forever 21, Walmart, H&M, Meijers, Kohl's, Justice, Icing and Hot Topic. Samples were collected from 6 different states, including Minnesota, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Vermont.

Highlights of Study Results:

  1. OVERALL – 59 percent (58) of products tested were rated as having HIGH level of concern due the presence of one or more hazardous chemical detected at high levels.
  2. LEAD – 27 of 99 (27 percent), including two samples from Minnesota, of jewelry contained greater than 300 ppm lead in one or more components. 300 ppm is the CPSC limit of lead in children’s products.
  3. CADMIUM – 10 of 99 (10 percent) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm cadmium in one or more components.
  4. CHROMIUM – 92 of 95 (93 percent) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm chromium.
  5. NICKEL – 30 of 95 (30 percent) of jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm nickel.
  6. BROMINATED FLAME RETARDANTS – 7 of 95 (7 percent) of jewelry contained brominated flame retardants (greater than 1,000 ppm bromine).
  7. CHLORINE – 11 of 95 (12 percent) of jewelry contained PVC (greater than 25,000 ppm chlorine).

 “Toxic jewelry is a symptom of the complete failure of our federal chemical regulatory system,” said Gearhart. “Our children will never be safe until we reform our chemical laws to ensure products are safe before they arrive on store shelves.”

Since 2007 researchers at the Ecology Center have performed over 20,000 tests on 7,000 consumer products, including pet products, vehicles, women's handbags, jewelry, back-to-school products, children's toys, building products and children's car seats. 


Cute Baby Friday: March 2, 2012




"How can you deny THIS FACE the passage of the Safe Chemicals Act?"

Does this cute baby inspire you to action the Safe Chemicals Act? Learn more now!

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