Consumer products can contain a variety of chemicals of concern. The materials used in pet products, cars, toys and other products, including plastics, paints, and fabrics are made up of chemicals, and may also contain added chemicals to impart specific properties such as rigidity, durability, flexibility or flame resistance.
When children and pets put these products into their mouths, some of these chemicals may enter their bodies. Some of the substances, which are not always chemically bound to the products, may also be released directly onto skin, or into the air that children and pets breathe. There may also be exposure through chemicals that collect in house dust. However, the detection of a chemical in a product does not necessarily mean there is direct exposure.
Because children's bodies are growing and developing, they are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals. Even small amounts of a chemical can impact a child's ability to reach his or her full potential. Pets, like young children, spend a lot of time on the floor and on furniture - collecting dust and dirt from the household. Pets, especially cats, then clean their fur and swallow any chemicals on their bodies. Each of us is exposed to toxic chemicals from many sources, ranging from our cars to toys, and it is the combination of these many exposures that is of greatest concern.
While there are a number of chemicals of concern that have been found in common consumer products, HealthyStuff.org focused on a subset of chemicals that could be detected by the XRF technology: lead, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, bromine and mercury. HealthyStuff.org also contains information on consumer products that contain chromium, tin, and antimony. Each of these chemicals also represents potential exposure to workers or communities during the manufacture of products containing them, and potentially to communities where the products are disposed.
HealthyStuff.org selected these elements and related or associated chemical compounds because they have been identified by many regulatory agencies as problematic chemicals or they are associated with problematic compounds and/or because of their toxicity or suspected toxicity, persistence, and/or their tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals have also been linked in animal and, less often, in human studies to long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. They were also chosen because these chemicals, or their elemental building blocks, have been subject to either regulatory restrictions or voluntary limits set by industry associations or third party environmental certification organizations.
For the first time, children's products are regulated for a number of chemicals of concern, effective this year. On February 10, 2009 the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act adopted the ASTM F973-07 levels for antimony, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead, chromium (view ASTM standard) as a mandatory standard.
Many of these chemicals also have significant hazards associated with upstream processes like mining and chemical production, and end of product life recycling or disposal.
The rapid screening technology used for HealthyStuff.org cannot identify the presence and concentration of every chemical of concern. For example, a chemical of concern like Bisphenol A cannot be detected by the XRF device.
HealthyStuff.org ratings do not provide a measure of health risk or chemical exposure associated with any product, or any individual element or related chemical. HealthyStuff.org ratings only provide a relative measure of high, medium, and low concentrations of several hazardous chemicals or chemical elements in a toy or children's product in comparison to criteria established in the methodology. Not all chemicals of concern (e.g., Bisphenol A) can be screened using this methodology.