Lead and hazardous flame retardants from recycled plastics used as fillers

Study highlights long-lived hazards of poorly regulated chemical use

(Ann Arbor, MI) – New research finds thousands of pounds of hazardous chemicals in plastic beaded products, including beaded holiday garlands and Mardi Gras beads. The study is a collaboration between HealthyStuff.org (a project of the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit organization, 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.

“These plastic bead products are being used as a dumping ground for old plastic waste, which is loaded with toxic chemicals,” said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center ’s principle researcher. “We estimate that a single year ’s inventory of Mardi Gras beads may contain up to 900,000 pounds of hazardous flame retardants and 10,000 pounds of lead.” Gearhart and other researchers used electron microscope imagery to examine the interior and exterior of the beads. In addition, researchers compared the elemental composition of the beads to plastic waste streams, leading to the conclusion that recycled plastic waste is the most likely filler ingredient in the beads. In addition, plastic waste streams can contain the hazardous chemicals identified in the study.

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.