I always love a great new resource. Which is why I'm excited that the excellent people at the Michigan-based Ecology Center - the minds behind HealthyCars.org and HealthyToys.org -- have just launched HealthyStuff.org. Here consumers will be able to check the safety of all sorts of "stuff," from pet products to jewelry to women's handbags, as well as get the continuously updated information on toys, cars and car seats their other sites are known for. The goal here is not only to let consumers know which products contain hazardous chemicals and in what levels - all tested with XRF technology - but to motivate them to put pressure on manufacturers and legislators to ban the worst chemicals from everyday products. To help consumers do this, there are action links to click on the site. Click on them!
I sifted through some of the recently tested items on HealthyStuff.org and was pleased to see that there are a number of handbags -- especially inexpensive (and cute!) numbers from H&M -- that I assumed would have high levels of lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants), and chlorine (PVC), actually do not. But other items from widely available brands like Aldo, 9&Co. and Tory Burch did, including some with lead levels way over the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limit for lead in kid's products. My daughter likes to play dress up with my bags, and is around them all day long, so I'd prefer something without, thanks. HealthyStuff.org also tests for other chemicals "based on their toxicity or suspected toxicity, persistence, and/or tendency to build up in people and the environment," including cadmium, arsenic and mercury. These plus lead, bromine, and chlorine have "been linked in animal and some human studies to long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer."
Children and pets have greater exposure to these chemicals, based on their size, proximity to the floor, and the fact that they both put "stuff" in their mouths. The Ecology Center has been testing kids' toys for a few years now, but with this launch, they've now compiled a comprehensive database of over 400 leashes, beds, chew toys, cat nip mice and so on. Guess what? A quarter of all pet products had detectable levels of lead, including nearly half of pet collars. Ever seen your kid throw their arms around their pet and bury their faces into their necks? Double exposure! And those tennis balls your children use to play catch with the dog? 48% of them had detectable levels of lead. Also upsetting from the report (I have a cat): "Cats groom themselves and lick off dust that has been shown to be heavily contaminated with hazardous chemicals. For example, bio-monitoring of cats has shown BFR exposure 23X higher than humans."
In addition, HealthyStuff.org has updated information on cars, car seats and toys. They've tested almost 700 new and used vehicles from the 1980's to the 2010 model year. They rank the best new cars, and note that 2009 vehicle average scores were 1/3 better then vehicle
Manufactured before 2004, thanks to the reduction of use of heavy metals like lead in cars. For people who drive often, or commute daily, in-car chemical exposure is no joke. The site lists car seats that are lead, PVC, and bromine-free (Best Infant Seat: Baby Trend Flex-Loc, Best Convertible Car seat: Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat, Best Booster Seat: Graco Turbo Booster).
HealthyStuff.org also pointed the XRF gun at back to school products. The results are now available but the most recent toy rankings won't go up until just before holiday shopping time. In the future, expect much needed mattress rankings (they conducted a "Test My Stuff" poll and mattresses got the public nod), plus more. Bookmark the site and check back often.
When you do go on the site, do not forget to click the action alerts. Their guide is beyond helpful for consumers wanting to avoid the worst chemicals but we cannot XRF test ourselves out of exposure to lead and other toxic chemicals. Change in law is needed. And changes, thankfully, do appear to be on the horizon.
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