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38 posts categorized "Minnesota Priority Chemicals"


Toxic phthalates in back-to-school supplies

Last week the Center for Healthy, Environment and Justice and the Empire State Consumer Project released findings from a report that found elevated levels of phthalates in common back to school products like backpacks, lunchboxes, three-ring binders and more. Many of the products contained high levels of phthalates that are not allowed in children's toys.

Are you headed to the store for some last-minute shopping? Be sure to take a look at this coverage from KARE 11 on what to look for at the store--and check out CHEJ's helpful PVC-free back to school guide for more helpful tips.


Hold the estrogen—leave your receipt

By David Wallinga, Senior Advisor on Science, Food and Health at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

IStock_000008207144XSmallYou’ve probably heard about the hormone-disrupting chemical, BPA, put into food can liners. Eden Foods, a maker of canned beans, tomatoes and other products, gave BPA the boot long ago.

Campbell’s Soup, among other companies, has announced it will phase BPA out of cans, but without disclosing when, or what alternative(s) will replace it.

In fact, food is a major route of exposure to all sorts of chemicals like BPA. Just not the only route. It turns out BPA also is part of that that filmy coating on ATM and other receipts. Known as thermal receipt paper, it’s widely used in cash registers, for airline tickets, even in adhesive labels on grocery deli foods.

An estrogen-coated receipt in your purse? Big yuck. Even worse, new science suggests BPA can be absorbed through the skin. As usual, we know there are alternatives. The EPA’s Design for the Environment Program just released a draft report on 19 chemical alternatives to BPA for use in developing thermal paper.

EPA is welcoming comments through October 12, 2012



What you need to know about “BPA-Free”

By Kathleen Schuler, Senior Policy Analyst at IATP and Healthy Legacy Co-Director

Water bottleEven after many plastic manufacturers have phased out the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in their products, the possibility of other hormone-disrupting chemicals in plastic continues to be a concern. NPR recently reported on a dispute between Eastman Chemical, which makes Tritan, a BPA-free chemical used to make some water bottles, and two companies that test for plastic safety

By now most people are familiar with bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical component of polycarbonate plastic. BPA is a problem because it leaches out of the plastic and into the food or beverage contained within. The chemical is also linked to numerous health problems.  BPA is a hormone disrupter, which means that it interferes with the delicate hormone balance in the human body. Exposure to BPA is associated with increased risk of cancer, reproductive problems and even diabetes.

But BPA is not the only chemical that can be released from plastics under the right conditions and it’s also not the only chemical in plastics that is hormonally active. The study at issue here was authored by Dr. Chun Yang and colleagues (Dr. George Bittner is a co-author on the study and was quoted in the NPR story) and found chemicals with estrogenic activity in a wide variety of plastic products they tested.  

Their study found that hundreds of plastic food and beverage containers (including baby bottles, water bottles, deli containers, food wrap and more) leached detectable amounts of chemicals having estrogenic activity (EA), including products labeled “BPA-free,” when exposed to sunlight, boiling water or microwaving. EA means that the chemical can interact with estrogen receptors in the human body. Like BPA, other EAs are associated with an array of health problems, such as early puberty in females, reduced sperm counts, obesity, altered behaviors and reproductive cancers.  

Eastman-Tritan now labels their water bottles as not only “BPA-free,” but “EA free” as well.

Comprehensive, independent, third-party laboratories using well-recognized methods have confirmed that Tritan does not contain estrogenic activity (EA) and androgenic activity (AA). Eastman is confident in these test results despite recent false and misleading statements about Tritan made by PlastiPure, Inc. and its sister company CertiChem, Inc. These companies rely on the results from a screening test (called the MCF-7 test), which is known in the scientific community to be a non-definitive, non-final test for EA.

I’m not in a position to question the credibility of Tritan’s claims or of the testing methods used in the Yang study, but the controversy brings to light some important take home messages for consumers, citizens and policymakers.


While it might be hard to interpret what’s behind the labels, whether it’s “BPA free” or “EA free,” you can follow a few precautionary guidelines for safe use of plastics, including:

  1. At minimum purchase BPA-free plastics or consider alternatives to plastic such as stainless steel or glass.
  2. Don’t microwave anything in plastic.
  3. Avoid using plastic containers for hot food and beverages. If you do, cool the contents first. 
  4. Keep plastic containers away from sunlight. If you plan to be in the sun, consider using a stainless steel or glass water bottle.
  5. Discard old and scratched plastic containers that can experience increased chemical leaching. 

For more helpful tips on how to avoid problem plastics, check out our Smart Plastics Guide.

Policymakers and citizens:  

We must ensure that all consumer plastic products are free of all chemicals that disrupt hormones. Please support policies that protect public health from hormone disrupting chemicals, for example:

  1. Restrict uses of BPA in food can linings, an important source of BPA exposure especially affecting pregnant women and young children.
  2. Ask the U.S. Senate to pass the Safe Chemicals Act to reform our outdated chemical regulatory system and require safety testing for all chemicals before they are used in products.

Sign up to hear from Healthy Legacy and Healthy Food Action on how to advocate for policies that protect our products and our food system from EAs and other harmful chemicals. 

Photo courtesy of sielju on flickr


Honesty is the best policy: BPA-free doesn’t always = toxic-free

Canned food_flickr_istorijaJust a few short years ago BPA, a chemical relatively unknown to the general public, was used in a plethora of consumer products: from baby bottles to receipt paper to food can linings and more. As we’ve worked to educate the public about the health concerns related to BPA: breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity and reproductive harm, to name a few, the call to phase this harmful chemical out of everyday products has grown to a roar.

We’re proud of that success! Thanks to consumer pressure, several state laws have been enacted to ban BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups and many companies have taken action of their own accord. Some canned food manufacturers, like Campbell’s, are transitioning away from using BPA in can linings. Unfortunately phasing out this one problem chemical isn’t enough, since the laws that are meant to regulate toxics in the United States are woefully inadequate. This is especially true for the chemicals in our food packaging. Because the FDA’s system for evaluating and approving chemicals in food packaging is so out of date, toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and phthalates are perfectly legal to use in food.

The campaign to get BPA out of canned food is not just about BPA (though of course it’s a chemical we’re very concerned about). While we need to focus on harmful individual chemicals, we also need to start asking more of our manufacturers. We need to ensure that the foods and products all of us come into contact with on a daily basis are truly safe. To reach that goal, companies like Campbell’s need be open and honest about their timeline to phase BPA out of cans. They also need to disclose what alternative chemical they will use in its place and the process they used to determine that chemical was safe.

Eden Foods is a great example of a company that has led the way in not only phasing BPA out of food cans, but also in being transparent with consumers about what they use in its place. Their website has in-depth information both about the alternatives they use and why they made the decision to go BPA-free. This is the high bar of honesty that consumers want and expect from the brands they trust.

Soon, we’ll be sharing an opportunity for you to get involved with this issue—so please stay tuned! In the meantime, learn more about how to avoid BPA and other toxic chemicals in canned food.

Photo from istorija on flickr.



Flame retardant peanut butter?

PB sandwichA new study just published online ahead of print in Environmental Health Perspectives has found a toxic flame retardant, HBCD, in many common grocery store foods including peanut butter, cold cut meats, fish and more.

HBCD is a chemical used in polysterene foam insulation, some textiles and electrical applications. Exposure to the chemical often occurs through dust. Because of concerns about it's toxicity (including reproductive harm and endocrine disruption) and its presence in the environment, the Minnesota Department of Health named HBCD to the priority chemicals list in 2011

The findings in the new study are of concern because HBCD had not previously been found in food. While eating one peanut butter sandwich may not lead to a specific health problem, it is yet another source of daily exposure to a mixture of problem chemicals we experience on an ongoing basis. Because HBCD is a fat-loving chemical, researchers tested foods like peanut butter with higher fat content. Once in the body, HBCD may also bind to fat there, allowing it to stick around for a long period of time.

HBCD is under the microscope at the international level, too, where it is under review for designation as a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). Alternatives to HBCD are often already available on the European market.

Ultimately this study points to a larger problem of harmful chemicals that are ending up in unexpected places. And even if one harmful flame retardant is banned, another chemical, often just as toxic, can be substituted in its place. That happens because the current law meant to regulate chemicals in the U.S., the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is completely ineffective. There are currently more than 80,000 chemicals on the market, but the EPA has only required safety testing on about 200, with only five ever being restricted under the law.

That's why we support passage of the Safe Chemicals Act, a bill introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (and co-sposnored by Minnesota Senators Franken and Klobuchar, among others) that would overhaul TSCA. In the meantime, you can use our Quick Tips to Avoid Priority Chemicals fact sheet to help reduce your exposure to the nine chemicals on the Minnesota priority chemicals list.

Photo from anthro_aya on flickr.


Fight back against chemical industry deception!

Furniture on fireLast week, the Chicago Tribune set the (presumably flame retardant) collective pants of the chemical industry on fire by exposing their deceptive tactics to the public.

At issue? The millions of dollars invested by the chemical industry into passing legislation that would essentially require the use of harmful chemicals in furniture, electronics, foam baby products and more (they also actively worked against bills to ban toxic flame retardants). We’re concerned about flame retardants because they are often linked with harmful health effects like cancer, neurotoxicity, reduced fertility and thyroid hormone disruption.

And as if that weren’t enough, the series went on to highlight how Big Tobacco actively worked with the chemical industry to promote the use of harmful flame retardants in furniture, all so they wouldn’t have to produce a self-extinguishing cigarette (the cause of many-a-house fire in the 1980s).

How did they do it? They established an industry front group to advocate their cause, misrepresented the science on flame retardants, and paid a burn doctor to testify about infant burn victims, whose lives might have been saved by the use of chemical flame retardants (his story has been thoroughly discredited).

Clearly, American families are up against corporate giants when it comes to protecting out health from toxic chemicals. We need to act now to do something about it! Consumer education isn’t enough. We need to demand that our products be safe and tested before they hit store shelves.

Today, hundreds of moms, cancer survivors and advocates are in DC to demand passage of the Safe Chemicals Act, which would make corporations responsible for the safety of the chemicals they create and use in their products. It’s about time!

Send a message to our Minnesota Senators Klobuchar (Facebook and Twitter: @amyklobuchar) and Franken (Facebook and Twitter: @AlFranken) to thank them for their support of this legislation and urge them to continue to be leaders in protecting our health!

  1. Sample Facebook message: @Amy Klobuchar, thank you for co-authoring the Safe Chemicals Act! We need to protect Minnesota families by making sure chemicals are safe and tested before they end up in our products. I hope you’ll continue to be a leader in protecting our health!
  2. Sample Twitter message: @AlFranken thx for your support of the #SafeChemicalsAct! 120k+ signatures delivered 2 the senate in support of the bill #StrollerBrigade

Until Congress steps up and passes the Safe Chemicals Act, here’s a tip to help you reduce your exposure to flame retardants:

Tip: Avoid furniture that has a label stating it meets CA flame retardant TB 117, an outdated standard that requires excessive amounts of flame retardants be added to furniture foam. You can also reduce exposure to flame retardants that end up in household dust by mopping floors frequently and using a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

 Photo from John Niedermeyer on flickr.


Liar, liar, pants on fire?

A new watchdog series at the Chicago Tribune looks in depth at the use of toxic flame retardants in furniture and other foam products. What did they find? A history of deception, questionable testimony and industry front groups that have invested millions in deceiving the general public about the need for these harmful chemicals. It turns out that these chemicals don't effectively prevent fires, but likely do make smoke from fires more toxic.

This video from the Chicago Tribune gives a great overview of their work.

Flame retardant video
The Chicago Tribune will continue to publish more information on this topic throughout the week, which you can find here.

In Minnesota, there are two flame retardants on the Priority Chemics list. You can use this factsheet to find tips on how to avoid them in children's products

But ultimately these harmful chemicals are ending up in consumer products because the current law on the books, the Toxic Substances Control Act, is broken and outdated--instead of protecting our health, it  allows thousands of chemicals to be used in products without being tested for safety. We deserve better. Will you take action today by signing the petition to support the Safe Chemicals Act


New Study Finds Toxic Chemicals in Gardening Products

By Kim LaBo, Healthy Legacy Organizer at Clean Water Action Minnesota.

Chemicals in Hoses Leach into Water, Study Finds

image from salsa.democracyinaction.orgHigh amounts of lead, phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA ) were found in the water of a new hose after sitting outside in the sun for just a few days, according to a report co-released today by the Minnesota based Healthy Legacy Coalition and Healthy Stuff. Results are available online today at

Nearly 200 hoses, gloves, kneeling pads and tools were tested for lead, cadmium, bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC); phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA).  Such chemicals have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, premature births and early puberty in laboratory animals, among other serious health problems. 

“During the summer, many children drink from garden hoses, run through sprinklers and wade in kiddie pools that contain water contaminated with toxic chemicals,” stated Deanna White, Clean Water Action state director and Healthy Legacy Coalition co-director. “Children’s health is being put at risk yet again because current laws do not ensure products are safe.” 

Testing Highlights

  1. screened 179 common garden products, including garden hoses (90); garden gloves (53); kneeling pads (13) and garden tools (23). Two-thirds (70.4%) of these products had chemical levels of “high concern.”
  2. 30% of all products contained over 100 ppm lead in one or more component.  100 ppm is the Consumer Product Safety Commission Standard (CPSC) for lead in children’ products.
  3. 100% of the garden hoses sampled for phthalates contained four phthalate plasticizers which are currently banned in children’s products.
  4. Two water hoses contained the hazardous flame retardant 2,3,4,5-tetrabromo-bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (TBPH).

Harmful Chemicals End Up in Water

  1. Water sampled from one hose contained 0.280 mg/l (ppm) lead.  This is 18-times higher than the federal drinking water standard of 0.015 mg/l. 
  2. BPA levels of 2.3 ppm were found in the hose water.  This level is 20-times higher than the 0.100 ppm safe drinking water level used by NSF to verify that consumers are not being exposed to levels of a chemical that exceed regulated levels. 
  3. The phthalate DEHP was found at 0.025 ppm in the hose water. This level is 4-times higher than federal drinking water standards.  EPA and FDA regulate DEHP in water at 0.006 mg/l (ppm).

What You Can Do

  1. Read the labels: Avoid hoses with a California Prop 65 warning that says “this product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.”  Buy hoses that are “drinking water safe” and “lead-free”.
  2. Let it run: Always let your hose run for a few seconds before using, since the water that’s been sitting in the hose will have the highest levels of chemicals.
  3. Avoid the sun: Store your hose in the shade. The heat from the sun can increase the leaching of chemicals from the PVC into the water.
  4. Don't drink water from a hose: Unless you know for sure that your hose is drinking water safe, don’t drink from it.  Even low levels of lead may cause health problems.
  5. Buy a PVC-free hose: Polyurethane or natural rubber hoses are better choices.  Visit for sample products.
  6. Support passage of the Safe Chemicals Act: Harmful chemicals are ending up in consumer products because the Toxic Substances Control Act, passed into law over 35 years ago, is outdated and ineffective.

“Even if you are an organic gardener, doing everything you can to avoid pesticides and fertilizers, you still may be introducing hazardous substances into your soil by using these products,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center.


Formaldehyde in children's products bill moves forward in MN State House

By Dan Endreson, Clean Water Action Minnesota

image from Minnesota House of Representatives recently voted to accept language to prohibit formaldehyde in children's products onto a larger Environment Omnibus bill.

During the 2012 Legislative Session, the Health Legacy coalition has been working on a policy to protect our kids from toxic chemicals and prohibit the use of formaldehyde in children’s products. Studies have found formaldehyde in children’s products such as crib sheets, clothing and personal care products. Short-term exposure to formaldehyde causes eye and respiratory irritation, and long-term exposure can cause cancer.

The State House of Representatives made the right decision in voting to accept the language to prohibit formaldehyde in children’s products onto the House Environment Omnibus bill on April 4. The vote was bipartisan, as 74 Democrats and Republicans joined together to ensure children’s products that are sold in Minnesota are free of formaldehyde. Will the Minnesota Senate join their colleagues in supporting this important policy as the Omnibus bill moves forward this week?

Photo by: TBoard on flickr.


In bed with Formaldehyde? A known carcinogen in some textiles

IStock_000012222942SmallLast week, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted in favor of a ban on formaldehyde in children’s products by adding it to the Environment Omnibus bill. And we say: it’s about time! Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that is used in everyday products from composite wood furniture to baby shampoo to clothing.

And (big surprise) it’s usually not on the label, especially in the case of textiles. (In personal care products, you can look for “quaternium-15” which is the preservative that can release formaldehyde over time). So how can we avoid exposure to this harmful chemical? Unfortunately, there’s no way to shop ourselves out of this problem, because the use of toxics in everyday products is widespread. What we really need is comprehensive reform that will ensure the products we buy are safe before they hit store shelves.

In the meantime, though, here’s a tip on how to reduce exposure to formaldehyde in textiles.

Tip: Make sure to wash new clothes and linens before wearing or using to reduce formaldehyde levels.

Formaldehyde is sometimes added to textiles like crib sheets. Wrinkle-free clothing is also often treated with formaldehyde. Washing them before you use them (and washing them frequently thereafter) can help to reduce levels of the chemical.

Does the prospect of formaldehyde in crib sheets make you as frustrated as it makes us? Sign the petition to congress demanding that they protect our families from toxic chemicals.

You can also download our Quick Tips to Avoid Toxins factsheet that has more tips for avoiding the nine Minnesota Priority Chemicals.

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