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31 posts categorized "TSCA"


Bringing the Stroller Brigade Home

By Martha Moriarty, LDA Minnesota

I'm a "Minnesota Mom" and glad to be one.

Frankens officeThis week I had the honor of being a part of the National Stroller Brigade, a march to support the Safe Chemicals Act in Washington, D.C. Prior to leaving for the event, I saw the trip as part of my job.  You see, I work at LDA Minnesota, a nonprofit helping children, youth, adults, and families with learning and attention difficulties, including learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.  LDA Minnesota advocates for toxic chemical reform because many of these chemicals are neurotoxins and can lead to learning and developmental disabilities in our children.  The children and families we help face a lifetime of challenges including learning to read, managing relationships, and holding a job.  I was traveling to the Stroller Brigade on behalf of over 3,000 children and families we help each year who struggle with learning and ADHD.

Micaela of Mindful Momma and Martha get ready to head in to their meeting with Senator Franken's staff.

However, after being a part of the Stroller Brigade and spending two days with a group of moms (and a few dads) who are all concerned about toxic chemicals in everyday products, especially children's products, I've embraced my role as a proud "Minnesota Mom" and see that this issue extends beyond my professional life.  It's an issue close to home, too. It touches my life as a mom of two young children that I hope will live healthy, long lives, and as a daughter of a parent who is battling cancer.

LDA affiliate reps
Martha with representatives of LDA from all across the country.

I'm lucky to live in a state that has passed laws to protect our children from toxic chemicals in everyday products, like the BPA-ban in sippy cups and baby bottles.  I feel lucky to have Senators who both have signed on as co-sponsors of the Safe Chemicals Act, a proposed law that would ensure that chemicals are safe and tested before they end up in consumer products.  And, I feel lucky to have the Healthy Legacy coalition and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families working on my behalf to pass these laws to protect our children now and into the future.

But much work still lies ahead.  The Minnesota Department of Health has released a list of nine priority chemicals that are harmful to our health and continue to be a source of exposure for kids. As a mom and an advocate, I want all Minnesota kids to be safe from exposure to these and other harmful chemicals.  And more than that, I want to live in a country where our health is valued and protected.  That's why we urgently need action on the Safe Chemicals Act, too.

Senators Lautenberg and Durbin speak to the media about the need for chemical policy reform. 

As I boarded the plane to head home to our beautiful state, full of natural resources and above-average citizens, I put my "mom hat" back on and began thinking about what to cook for dinner, what time I had to pick up the kids from school and daycare, and when I was going to fit in grocery shopping before the holiday weekend arrives.  But I stopped for a moment and recognized that all of the moms I met in D.C. must not put away our Stroller Brigade work for too long.  This work of protecting our families needs to happen.  The time is now to pass the Safe Chemicals Act and we can't let the momentum slow, we must continue to raise our voices and demand the change that is so urgently needed to protect our families.



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.


My mom: my motivation to work for safer chemicals and a healthier future for my family

By Tanwi Prigge, Maple Grove, Minnesota

Mom Me and RainaI am an Indian woman who came to US to study on a scholarship when I was 19 years old. I’m an IT professional and a US citizen, married to an American and a mother of a 3 year-old daughter. Being a mother has opened my eyes to so many dangers our kids face very early on and I cannot help but think of all the traditions and safe housekeeping my mother practiced to keep her family safe.  

When my daughter was born, my mother came to visit from India and in her luggage she carried cotton quilts, wooden and cloth toys, stainless steel utensils (some new and some as old as me!) cotton pillows, a gold necklace and lots of homemade baby items all made from natural materials. She told me that my first and foremost responsibility was to protect my child from all harm and that sentiment stuck with me.

Childhood memories

When I think back on my childhood, I remember my mother always cooking in stainless steel cookware, some of which has lasted for many years and now has been passed down to me. Even though her friends had their “new,” “revolutionary,” “modern,” and expensive non-stick cookware, she trusted her steel cookware more. Now, with what we know about the chemicals in those pans, I am glad she kept using time-tested and safe options.

And it wasn’t just in the kitchen that she avoided products filled with synthetic chemicals. We played with rag dolls and their matching outfits my grandma made of cotton and wool. We had cloth diapers and the changing pads were small quilts that were constantly washed and rotated…no wonder we were all potty trained before our first birthday!

How do we get out of this toxic mess?

Although I live in one of the most powerful and richest countries in the world with all the modern amenities one can imagine, I keep going back to the things that were safe and made with few synthetic chemicals for the sake of my family.

I strongly believe that parents can do a lot to protect their children from chemical hazards by making some simple changes to their lifestyle. I have eliminated unnecessary cleaning products, personal products, garden pesticides, pet care and household insect control. I have become a conscientious purchaser when buying household goods, children’s toys, pet food, clothing and cookware.

But changing our own behavior isn’t enough!

526681_10150796217716744_101152936743_10014513_1707973136_nOur government also plays a role in protecting public health from toxins. Other countries are taking this issue very seriously and are continuously working to regulate these harmful chemicals, especially in children’s products. Just as a mother’s foremost responsibility is to protect her children, our government’s responsibility should be to protect its citizens. I hope you’ll join me in standing by the Federal Safe Chemicals Act S. 847—we need our elected officials to do the right thing!

Tanwi Prigge migrated to the United States from India on a student scholarship at the age of 19. She is an IT professional with lots of energy and a passion to work for the common good through volunteer work and active involvement in the community. 



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


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.


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. 


Time to Rethink Flame Retardants

By Meredith Salmi-Bydalek, The Arc Greater Twin Cities

ImageThink all those children’s products in your house are safe? Think again. A new report released by the Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States finds an alarming rate of toxic flame retardants are being used in children’s products sold in major retailers across the country. The groups tested 20 children’s products at Duke University containing polyurethane foam, which is often treated with flame retardants, including changing pads, car seats, and nursing pillows. Researchers found toxic flame retardants in 17 of the 20 products, and 16 of these products included chemicals from the “Tris” family. 

The most common Tris flame retardant found in these products was chlorinated Tris, or TDCPP. Sound familiar? It was phased out of children’s pajamas in the 1970’s due to health concerns and has made an alarming comeback as a replacement flame retardant for penta-BDE (banned in MN and other states). Studies have shown it to mutate some cell lines, disrupt hormones, and cause harm to the nervous system. Yikes!

These toxic flame retardants are not chemically bound to the products they’re used in, meaning they end up in household air and dust. Any parent knows that children love to explore their surroundings by crawling on the floor and putting anything in their mouths. This means their chances of exposure to icky chemicals like chlorinated Tris are much higher.  

Surprisingly, the only state with flammability standards is California. Other states do not have similar standards, nor require the use of flame retardants. The only exception is car seats which are monitored for flammability by federal standards. So what’s a parent or concerned citizen to do?

Alternatives do exist but are limited and take some work to find.  Busy parents don’t have time to research each product before shopping to ensure it is safe. What we really need is  reform of our current chemical laws to ensure that one toxic chemical isn’t replaced by another in children’s products and our kids are kept safe. The Safe Chemicals Act currently making its way through U.S. Congress will do just that:  Phase out the most toxic, persistent chemicals used in everyday products. 


Trouble in Toyland Report Finds Lead and Phthalates

By Meredith Salmi-Bydalek, The Arc Greater Twin Cities

Trouble-in-toyland_20111122152529_320_240Shopping during the holiday season can definitely be stressful, and nowadays parents are often left with the challenge of not only finding the perfect gift, but also navigating through a sea of unregulated toxic toys to get there.

Unfortunately, a recent report by the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) Education Fund reiterates that we still need to be extra cautious when picking out toys off the shelf.

The annual Trouble in Toyland report investigates safety of toys currently on the market. Researchers visited national toy stores, malls and dollar stores looking for toys that could pose a potential risk to young children, from exposure to toxic chemicals to choking hazards. Despite recent efforts to limit the use of toxic chemicals in children’s products, what researchers found might surprise you.

What did they find?

Though banned since 1978 in products marketed to children, lead, a known neurotoxin affecting children’s development, can still be found in imported toys. From October 2010 through November 2011, almost 200,000 toys were recalled in the United States due to lead content that exceeded federal limits. Researchers found that a handful of toys investigated exceeded current federal limits and several others exceeded standards set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Phthalates were also found to be used in alarming rates in toys. Phthalates are additives used to improve the flexibility of products including toys. Exposure to phthalates in the womb or during development has been linked to reproductive harm. The current federal standards sets the maximum amount of three different phthalates at 1,000 parts per million (ppm). Researchers found toys that had 42,000 ppm and 77,000 ppm of various phthalates.

How you can avoid troublesome toys:

Even though dangerous chemicals still exist in some children’s toys, your holiday season doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. The report also releases these tips so that you can be a discerning consumer.

Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way to completely avoid toxics in consumer products until Congress passes the Safe Chemicals Act, legislation that will require chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are safe before they end up on store shelves. So give the gift that keeps on giving and take action to support the Safe Chemicals Act today!


Ready, Set...Stroller Brigade!

Today, moms and kids across the country are taking to the streets with their strollers and demanding that their senators support the Safe Chemicals Act, a bill introduced by Senator Lautenberg that will reform the broken and outdated Toxic Substances Control Act.

 Comprehensive chemical policy reform will benefit us all, and these Minnesotans are letting us in on just a few of the many reasons we need to get toxic chemicals out of our lives!

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families will be live all-day on Facebook, dishing out non-toxic living tips and we'll be there to join in the fun. Join us!

You can also track the stroller brigades on twitter by searching #StrollerBrigade.


Chemical Nightmare: Toxins in Crib Mattresses

MattressMatters-72dpi-stickerEarlier this year we reported on the presence of toxic flame retardants in children's products containing polyurethane foam and today a new report has been released that finds a significant portion of the crib mattresses in the U.S. market contain one or more chemicals of concern.

The Mattress Matters: Protecting Babies While They Sleep, published by our colleagues at Clean and Healthy New York, and the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, lays out the results of a market study on crib mattress manufacturing in the U.S.

Mattress pie chartWhat did they find?

  1. 52 percent of mattress models surveyed were made with conventional materials, including toxic chemicals.
  2. 20 percent of mattress models surveyed were made without chemicals of concern, but contained potential allergens.
  3. 8 percent of mattress models surveyed were made without chemicals of concern or allergens.

The Minnesota Priority Chemicals list

The Priority Chemicals list puts some of the worst of the worst chemicals found in children's products on record. They are are known or suspected developmental or reproductive toxins, endocrine disrupters, or persistent, bioaccumulative toxins and are found in the human body, the home environment or in nature. They are also produced in excess of one million pounds per year.

Two of the chemicals on the list, decaBDE and HBCD, are both toxic flame retardants that may be used in textiles and foam products. Additionally, three different phthalates and lead also made the cut. They are often added to vinyl, and since 40% of the surveyed mattresses included vinyl covers, some of all of them may be present in these products.

What's in a mattress? It's not always easy to find out

IStock_000012222942SmallThe report authors investigated 28 different crib mattress manufacturers by checking product tags, websites and making calls to the different companies. In this process, 17 manufacturers disclosed all of their ingredients (though only two, Soaring Heart Natural Bed Company and Naturepedic,  provided full disclosure on their websites). Another ten companies provided some information but either gave proprietary name information or refused to provide information on the use of flame retardants, waterproofers and/or antibacterial methods. One company refused to answer any questions about their products.

The good news

Parents should rest assured that this report will help them to make informed decisions about purchasing a crib mattress. The report found that 14 mattress models from 3 different manufacturers did not contain any chemicals of concern or potential allergens.

However, these choices should be available to everyone without having to conduct a research project and that's why what we really need is to reform the broken and outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has failed to require this information and to keep harmful chemicals off the market for the past 35 years. Add your voice to the campaign for safer chemicals by asking your senators to support the Safe Chemicals Act!


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