FAQ 1: General Questions

General questions about product testing

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What should I do if a product I own is listed HIGH?

First, if the product is a safety device like a car seat, we strongly advise you to continue using the product. Car seats save lives and should be used to transport children in vehicles.

In general vacuuming the product and area with a HEPA filter can help because chemicals end up getting attached to dust molecules and that is one route of exposure (ingestion/dermal contact with dust). There have been studies that indicate washing hands also limits exposure (because of hand to mouth contact).

 

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Are the chemicals listed here the only chemicals of concern in products?

No. The rapid screening technology used for HealthyStuff.org can identify the presence and concentration of some chemicals of concern. Consumer products may contain other hazardous materials that our analytical equipment cannot identify. HealthyStuff.org is a first step in providing information to consumers on some chemicals of concern in the everyday products we purchase.

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What should I do if I own a product with HIGH lead levels?

HealthyStuff.org recommends that you remove the product from your home and write the manufacturer, unless the item is a safety device like a car seat.

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Should my child or pet be tested for lead if we have one of these toys?

Parents should consult with their pediatrician or veterinarian to determine whether a lead test for their child or pet is warranted. The detection of lead in a product does not necessarily mean there has been exposure. It is important to remember that toys, childcare articles and pet products are just one source of lead exposure for kids and pets. Children and pets are exposed to lead from other sources as well. For tips on reducing lead exposure for children and pregnant women, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips.htm. or the American Academy of Pediatrics, Toy Safety Resource. For tips on reducing and managing lead exposure in pets, visit: American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

 

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What about lead paint?

Lead paint is still a concern -- the largest risk of lead exposure for children comes from lead paint and the resulting dust in older homes. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control website for tips on reducing lead exposure for children and pregnant women, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips.htm.

However, the risk from lead and other hazardous chemicals in consumer products is real. In particular, metal jewelry with high levels of lead or cadmium, if swallowed by a child, can be extremely hazardous. The contribution of products to the overall exposure of hazardous chemicals in children is not known, and will vary depending on the child's behavior and the products to which they are exposed. HealthyStuff.org believes these exposures are completely avoidable and therefore unnecessary, and product manufacturers should remove hazardous chemicals from consumer products.

 

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How can I choose safer products?

HealthyStuff.org offers tips to help consumers choose safer products. Please see our Consumer Resources page. It is also important to check products at home against government recall lists (see below). However, the only way to assure safer products for everyone is for the government to properly regulate chemicals in products. It cannot be the responsibility of consumers alone to determine which products are safe. Citizen pressure is essential to make the government and manufacturers bring safer products to market. Please refer to the Take Action link on this site for information on ways to add your voice to those calling for reform.

 

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How do I find out about product recalls?

For information on all product recalls, see the Consumer Product Safety Commission at: http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/. If you suspect that a product is unsafe, or to report an unsafe product, contact the CPSC on the internet, or by phone 1-800-636-CPSC. To receive email recall alerts from Consumer Product Safety Commission, visit http://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx.

 

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Why focus on PVC?

From production to disposal, PVC is associated with the use and release of hazardous chemicals.

During the production phase, workers at PVC facilities, as well as residents in surrounding areas, may be exposed to vinyl chloride (the building block of PVC) and/or dioxin (an unwanted byproduct of PVC production), both of which are carcinogens. At the end of a product's life, PVC can create dioxin when burned. PVC is not easily recycled. Lead and other metals are sometimes used as a stabilizer or to impart other properties to PVC plastic.

Because PVC is an inherently brittle material, it requires additives to make it flexible, long-lasting, or to impart other properties. Between HealthyStuff's XRF and FTIR technology, we can detect many of these additives, which have the potential to negatively impact human health.

 

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Why focus on phthalates?

Phthalates, pronouced "thal-ates," are commonly found in PVC. These additives can harm reproductive development, especially in boys. They have also been linked to asthma. Since February 2009, childcare products (products for children under three years of age) and children’s toys (toys produced for children under twelve years of age) containing concentrations of DEHP, BBP, and DBP (three different types of phthalates) greater than 0.1% have been considered banned hazardous materials. Three additional phthalates, DINP, DnOP, and DIDP in concentrations greater than 0.1% have been placed on a provisional ban and are being re-evaluated for their safety (CPSIA 2008). HealthyStuff's FTIR technology can detect phthalates with a lower limit of detection around 1% by mass in PVC.

 

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Why focus on lead?

Lead can harm brain development, with effects including reduced IQ, shorter attention span, and delayed learning. There is no safe level of lead exposure. Since August 2009, products containing a concentration of lead—both in the paint and in the product itself—greater than 300 ppm have been listed as banned hazardous substances. This limit will belowered to 100 ppm as of August 2011. The CPSC has the right to decrease the amount of allowable lead as it sees fit and in accordance with technology at the time (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, CPSIA 2008). According to the CPSIA, electronic toys in the United States are exempt from the lead ban, though this is subject to change by the CPSC as technology improves (CPSIA 2008). Read more.

 

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Why focus on cadmium?

Cadmium is a known human carcinogen, and can harm the kidneys and lungs. It can have adverse effects on motor skills and behavior.

 

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What else can I do to protect my family?

Call the manufacturer and ask them to reformulate their products to eliminate chemicals of concern, disclose the ingredients in their products. The most important single action you can take is to demand large-scale change because this is the only way to truly solve the problem. Also, visit About Us to see if state level work is happening where you live.

 

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Are newer products safer than older ones?

In general, HealthyStuff.org has only tested products manufactured from 2006-present and cannot make definitive conclusions on older products. However, there is concern that older products may pose additional hazards. For instance, many older toys - those made before regulations enacted on home paint in 1978 - were coated with lead paint, and many plastic toys and other plastic items before 1990 contained lead- and cadmium-based pigments. HealthyStuff.org has also tested a limited number of 1990-2004 vehicles and, on average, they have slightly higher levels of chemicals than 2006-2010 model year vehicles. Still, our researchers found a surprising number of toys and other products purchased in 2008 and 2009 that contain lead as well as other chemicals and far too many cars, car seats, and pet products with elevated levels of hazardous chemicals.

 

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Are brand-name products better?

Chemicals of concern have been found in all types of products from all types of stores. Even name-brand and high-end products have been found to contain lead and other hazards.

 

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Are USA-made products safer?

HealthyStuff.org has not found a consistent correlation between the country of manufacture and the presence of toxic chemicals in products. A lot of our consumer products are produced outside of the U.S. For example, eighty percent of all toys purchased in the U.S. are made in China. Therefore, the majority of toys that we've previously tested were from China. HealthyStuff.org has not found a consistent correlation between the country of manufacture and the presence of toxic chemicals in toys. Twenty-one percent of toys from China and 16% of those from all other countries had detectable levels of lead in 2008. In 2008, 17 toys manufactured in the U.S. were sampled and 35% of those had detectable levels of lead. Seven toys (2%) had levels above 600 ppm. One of the highest lead levels detected (190,943 ppm) was on a Halloween Pumpkin Pin made in the USA. In addition, our tests of vehicles and car seats produced in the U.S. consistently show elevated levels of one or more hazardous chemicals. These levels of hazardous chemicals in US manufactured products are comparable to similar products produced in Asia or Europe.

 

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Can I test for lead myself?

Lead-testing kits are widely available, but consumers should be aware that they can provide both false positives and false negatives. Kits may provide a screening tool, but should not be used as an absolute determination of safety. Consumer Reports has rated home lead testing kits. For their recommendations, see: http://blogs.consumerreports.org/safety/2007/10/testing-the-lea.html. The CPSC also recently tested lead testing kits. For their recommendations, see: http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/119033/lead.pdf. More accurate results can be provided by a testing organization with an XRF analyzer or through a laboratory testing (which is expensive). Some local health departments have an XRF that can test toys.

 

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What if I have other questions?

Check out our FAQ #2. If you still have questions, contact us.

Published on October 4, 2016

IMPORTANT NOTE: HealthyStuff.org ratings do not provide a measure of health risk or chemical exposure associated with any individual product, or any individual element or related chemical.

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