test tubes in the Healthy Stuff Lab

Rapid screening methods to detect hazardous chemicals

Since 2015, the Healthy Stuff Lab has done innovative testing on a wide variety of consumer products for hormone-disrupting chemicals with a relatively inexpensive analyzer. Traditional methods of testing for these chemicals are more sensitive and precise, but require much more time and expense. Our methods produce rapid results with very little chemical or material waste. 

Our studies have included: 

  • Phthalates and other plasticizers in toys, home decor, wallpaper, flooring, vinyl gloves, bottle cap gaskets, footwear, wire insulation, and more;
  • Flame retardant chemicals in children’s car seats; and
  • Bisphenol A and bisphenol S in purchase receipts.

This year, we published a paper describing how we carried out this work in the Journal of Environmental Health. The intended audience includes environmental health professionals in government agencies, researchers at non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and sustainability professionals at companies. We hope it serves as a guide for others pursuing rapid, more affordable testing.

Companies that make consumer products have an interest in monitoring their products and supply chains for hazardous chemicals as do NGOs aiming to minimize exposure to substances that increase disease. Most companies maintain restricted substance lists, whose scope may include unregulated chemicals of concern. In addition, NGO pressure—the pressure exerted by advocacy groups on brands and retailers to eliminate hazardous chemicals—has prompted many companies to phase out known hazards and to strengthen their corporate chemical policies and communication with suppliers. A practical tool to test for chemicals in products therefore may be useful for product makers, retailers, NGOs, and government agencies. 

View the paper

Miller and Gearhart, “A Rapid Screening Method for Detecting Hazardous Chemicals in Consumer Products, Food Contact Materials, and Thermal Paper Receipts Using ATR-FTIR Spectroscopy,” Journal of Environmental Health (November 2022), v. 85, no. 4, p. 8-15