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Research released in December 2013 found thousands of pounds of hazardous chemicals in plastic beaded products, including beaded holiday garlands and Mardi Gras beads. The study is a collaboration between, a project of the Ecology Center, and VerdiGras, a nonprofit organization in New Orleans dedicated to "greening" Mardi Gras. Researchers found most beads have one or more hazardous chemicals that have been linked to serious health threats.

As the nation’s leader in automotive R & D, as well as producer of the best-in-class Chevy Volt, Ford Focus EV and C-Max Energi, Michigan’s automotive industry has a key stake in the development of electric vehicles. A key question that arises when considering the purchase of a plug-in electric car is whether using electricity is better for reducing global warming emissions. In this brief analysis, we provide some initial findings on potential emissions from EV’s under different scenarios for the integration of renewables into Michigan’s power grid.

Updated in January 2012, this report contains information on lead wheel weight use and fate in the environment, and provides model legislation to implement phase-outs.

Updated in February 2012, this guide by, a project of the Ecology Center, provides data on 204 2011-2012 model new vehicles.  The report contains information on toxic chemicals that off-gas and leach from interior auto parts including steering wheels, dashboards and seats.

The Ecology Center has been behind many of the major accomplishments in Michigan's environmental community for more than 40 years. Learn about the highlights of our work in 2010.

A conservative estimate of annual costs for lead poisoning, asthma, cancer and selected neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Fueling Our Transportation While Growing Jobs and Reducing Global Warming Pollution

The Ecology Center is behind many of the major accomplishments in Michigan's environmental community. Learn about the highlights of our campaigns in 2006 and beyond.

2007 Guide to Child Car Seats

Crash tests aren’t the only way to prove the safety of a car seat, according to this report by the Ecology Center. The report tests over 60 brand new infant, convertible and booster car seats and finds that while some are virtually free of the most dangerous chemicals, others are saturated. The report gives each car seat an overall rating, and ranks them according to level of concern.


2006/7 Guide to Vehicles

Everyone knows that cars are a major source of air pollution. But most people don’t know that it isn’t only what comes out of tailpipes that’s the problem; but what’s inside the cars as well. “New car smell,” for example, comes from toxic chemicals being released from plastics, foams and fabrics in auto parts such as the steering wheel, dashboard and seats. This report tests over 200 new model vehicles for the presence of key hazardous chemicals and ranks them according to level of concern.


The Policies and Practices of Eight Leading Automakers

On November 15, 2006, the Ecology Center — the nation’s leading watchdog on toxic chemicals in cars — released its second annual “Automotive Plastics Report,” which grades the country’s eight leading car manufacturers on their plastics policies and practices. Although all companies can still make great strides in order to be completely safe for the environment and public health, Ford and Honda have made significant improvements since 2005, joining Toyota as leaders in the movement toward using sustainable plastics in indoor auto parts.

Chemicals in Cars and the Need for Safe Alternatives

Seat cushions, armrests, floor coverings and plastic parts used in most car interiors are made with toxic chemicals known to pose major public health risks. PBDEs, used as fire retardants, and phthalates, used to soften PVC plastics, have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, premature births, and early puberty in laboratory animals, among other serious health problems.

This first-of-its-kind report by the Ecology Center found significantly higher levels of PBDEs in vehicle dust and windshield wipe samples than those found in homes and offices in previous studies. Since the average American spends more than 1.5 hours in their car every day, this is a significant source of indoor air pollution. The study ranks car manufacturers according to the levels of toxic chemicals found inside the vehicles.

A Report Card on the Six Leading Automakers

U.S. automakers are falling behind their foreign competitors in the use of sustainable plastics. The industry leader, Toyota, has set aggressive goals for increasing its use of recyclable and biodegradable plastics, and is also reporting publicly on its progress. While U.S. automakers are making progress in some areas, none are matching Toyota’s goals, research and development investments, or actual use of sustainable plastics.

To help consumers and other stakeholders evaluate the progress of automakers towards sustainable plastics, the Ecology Center and Clean Production Action grade the top six auto companies in the U.S. on their policies, goals, and actions. How do corporate-wide environmental goals address plastics use? What are their goals for sustainable plastics? How are they measuring progress toward meeting their goals? And how far along the path of environmentally sustainable plastics have they gone?

Impacts of and Alternatives for Automotive Lead Uses

The use of lead in cars accounts for the largest remaining source of lead pollution today. The North American automobile industry is responsible for the release or transfer each year of more than 300 million pounds (136,508 metric tons) of lead through mining, smelting, manufacturing, recycling and disposing of lead-containing automotive components — primarily batteries — and through normal vehicle use.

This report, jointly released by the Ecology Center and Environmental Defense, documents the release of lead into the environment resulting from automobile manufacturing, use, and disposal. The report calls on the automotive industry to phase out lead use in cars, most notably in the starter battery, and to take responsibility for ensuring the recovery and proper management of lead used in cars.

Implications for Recycling and Disposal

The United States had a record 210 million automobiles on the road in 1999, up 15 million from 1994, and the total for all of North America in 1996 was more than 235 million. Each year, some 12 million of these vehicles are retired from useful life. Many of the materials used in their production create problems along the way, either in the vehicle’s manufacture, use or end-of-life. This report examines the historic and continuing use of the highly toxic metal mercury in automobiles and estimates its releases to the environment from end-of-life vehicle (ELV) processing. The report shows that emissions from vehicle recycling and disposal processes are one of the largest sources of mercury contamination to the environment. The report also examines strategies for cleaner production and proposes key policy solutions to eliminate mercury hazards from both new and existing vehicles.