Over 5000 children’s products contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption and reproductive problems, including the toxic metals, cadmium, mercury and antimony, as well as phthalates and solvents. A new report by the Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States reveals the results of manufacturer reporting to the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Makers of kids’ products reported using 41 of the 66 chemicals identified by WA Ecology as a concern for children’s health. Major manufacturers who reported using the chemicals in their products include Walmart, Gap, Gymboree, Hallmark, H & M and others. They use these chemicals in an array of kids’ products, including clothing, footwear, toys, games, jewelry, accessories, baby products, furniture, bedding, arts and crafts supplies and personal care products. Besides exposing kids in the products themselves, some of these chemicals, for example toxic flame retardants, build up in the environment and in the food we eat.
Examples of product categories reported to contain toxic chemicals include:
The chemical reports are required under Washington State’s Children’s Safe Products Act of 2008. A searchable database of chemical use reports filed with the Washington State Department of Ecology is available at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/cspa/search.html.
The Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots environmental leaders in each of the six continents. It’s an important forum that lifts up inspirational, justice-based work in communities around the world that often goes unrecognized. Earlier this week, the six winners were announced:
Jonathan Deal, South Africa – led a successful campaign against fracking in South Africa to protect the Karoo, a semi-desert region treasured for its agriculture, beauty and wildlife.
Azzam Alwash, Iraq – returned to war-torn Iraq to lead local communities in restoring the once-lush marshes that were turned to dustbowls during Saddam Hussein's rule.
Rossano Ercolini, Italy – began a public education campaign about the dangers of incinerators in his small Tuscan town that grew into a national Zero Waste movement.
Aleta Baun, Indonesia – organized hundreds of local villagers to peacefully occupy marble mining sites in "weaving protests," successfully stopping the destruction of sacred forestland in Mutins Mountain on the island of Timor.
Kimberly Wasserman, USA – led local residents in a successful campaign to shut down two of the country's oldest and dirtiest power plants, and is now transforming Chicago's old industrial sites into parks and multi-use spaces.
Nohra Padilla, Colombia – organized Colombia's marginalized waste pickers to make recycling a legitimate part of waste management.
This week, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families launched Mind the Store, a campaign that asks the nation's top 10 retailers to move away from the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals. The Hazardous 100+ is a list of chemicals that have been determined to be harmful to human health by several states, the U.S. EPA and the European Union and includes Minnesota’s nine priority chemicals in children’s products.
The Hazardous 100+ have been determined by authoritative bodies to be linked to cancer, developmental or reproductive problems, asthma, hormone disruption and other health problems. It includes chemicals like brominated flame retardants and PFOS that build up in the food chain and in our bodies.
These toxic chemicals don’t belong in our food, they don’t belong in our bodies and they don’t belong in our consumer products. Mind the Store is asking the top ten retailers—Walmart, Kroger, Target, Walgreens, Costco, Home Depot, CVS Caremark, Lowe’s, Best Buy and Safeway—to evaluate whether these chemicals are in any of products they sell and if so, to develop an action plan to phase out their use.
With chemicals like chlorinated tris, a carcinogen, turning up infant changing table pads, the respiratory irritant formaldehyde in baby bath products and hormone disrupter, BPA in food can linings, what’s a parent to do? Parents try to protect their kids from exposures to toxic chemicals by making smart purchases, but they don’t have all the information they need to know what is harmful. It’s the government’s job to assure that harmful products don’t end up on store shelves in the first place. While states like Minnesota are taking action to protect children from toxic chemical exposures, federal action is also critical. The 37-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the law regulating industrial chemicals in the U.S., is not doing the job.
A couple of years ago, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, which proposed sweeping reforms of this toothless law. While the bill did get through one committee, it never made it through to the floor. The Safe Chemicals Act is back and both Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Franken are original co-sponsors. We thank Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Franken for being champions for protecting the health of our kids and families!
The Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia has the largest collection of ancient mosaics in the world. Most of the mosaics, depicting Roman, Greek Phoenician and Nubian life, gods and royalty, are incomplete. Some have had to be radically reconstructed, with the help of archeology and very skilled and imaginative art conservationists. The Bardo mosaics have something in common with the World Social Forum (WSF): it is impossible to see more than a handful of the WSF’s nearly one thousand events, but it is possible to reconstruct a sense of the whole from some of its pieces.
The slogan of this WSF is The Revolution for Dignity. For a U.S. audience, this may seem like a strange slogan, but the Revolution in Tunisia, which deposed a dictator, began in January 2011 when a vegetable vendor harassed by police for operating without a license burned himself to death, literally crying to be treated with dignity. In a country with an unemployment rate of 60 percent and a large part of its wealth parked in European banks, rather than invested to create jobs, to be treated with dignity does not seem to be asking very much.
Healthy Legacy’s 2013 legislative agenda is making great progress. We are supporting three bills this legislative session that address priority chemicals in children’s products. After countless committee hearings, two of our bills have completed their committee paths and await floor votes in both houses.
Our third bill, the Toxic Free Kids Act (TFKA) of 2013 requires that manufacturers report the presence of a priority chemical in their children’s products and requires the eventual replacement of these harmful chemicals with safer alternatives. This bill passed through several committees in each house, but was voted down on March 18 in the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill was transformed through the committee process into a strong reporting bill that harmonizes with Washington and would put Minnesota on a solid path to address priority chemicals. We thank our chief authors Sen. Chris Eaton and Rep. Ryan Winkler for their leadership and hard work on these bills.
For well over a decade, IATP has advocated for alternatives to the current water governance regime that privileges profit over people, communities and ecosystems. In advocating against neoliberal approaches to solving water crises, we have argued for the promotion of the right to water and the right to food, for the precautionary principle and for the need to respect our common but differentiated responsibility to protect our commons.
This month, as the United Nations celebrates World Water Day, and as many organizations at the World Social Forum celebrate Water Justice Day, we offer Water Governance in the 21st Century: Lessons from Water Trading in the U.S. and Australia, a new paper that looks at the possibilities for water governance based on on cooperation rather than competition. We look at the experiences of water trading in Australia and North America for relevant lessons to help chart a path for just and sustainable water governance in 21st century.
“Any defenders of the status quo are not on my team.”
As he spoke, pictures flashed on the screen behind him: first, 60,000 plastic bags—the amount used in the U.S. every five seconds. Then, a shot of what 106,000 cans looks like (or the product of 30 seconds of can consumption in America). The photos were part of Photographer Chris Jordan’s Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption collection and dramatically illustrated our country’s urgent need for innovation—even as waste is only one small part of the picture.
Here, Anastas highlighted two properties that remain front and center in product lifecycle design: Persistence and toxicity. Think pesticides. Potentially toxic, and persistent enough to build up in our land and water, damage the environment and impact public health on a large scale. Green chemistry means designing products, from concept to production to the end of their use, to potential reuse, that are nontoxic, and will degrade safely when their time has come to shuffle off this mortal coil. Quite a brilliant idea, and not all that radical, especially as businesses in Minnesota and around the country begin to see that any successful business model will require such consideration as resources deplete and consumption continues to rise.
People across the country are concerned about toxic chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA), flame retardants, phthalates and formaldehyde in products they use every day, including those designed for babies and children. Most people agree that hormone disrupters, carcinogens and developmental toxins don’t belong in our consumer products. While action at the federal level is needed to better regulate toxic chemicals, states are taking the lead on protecting their citizens. At least 26 states will consider policies in 2013 to address concerns over toxic chemicals in consumer products, according to an analysis by Safer States, a national coalition of state-based environmental health organizations. The bills will cover a broad range of topics from bans on toxic flame retardants and bisphenol A (BPA) in consumer products to requirements that states identify chemicals of concern for health, manufacturers disclose their use of chemicals in products and the phase out of chemicals of concern.
Chemicals in our food system contribute to much of the human exposure to toxic chemicals, as persistent, toxic chemicals build up in the food chain and the human body. In addition, we are exposed to hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA, PFCs and phthalates in food packaging.
“With more studies showing increased exposure to toxic or untested chemicals in our homes, citizens are demanding action at the state level,” said Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “Stronger state laws not only benefit public health, but the marketplace, too, by restoring consumer's confidence that products in stores are safe. We urge state legislators across the country to continue leading on these critical public health protections.”
Writing in National Geographic in December 2012 about “small-scale irrigation techniques with simple buckets, affordable pumps, drip lines, and other equipment” that “are enabling farm families to weather dry seasons, raise yields, diversify their crops, and lift themselves out of poverty” water expert Sandra Postel of the Global Water Policy Project cautioned against reckless land and water-related investments in Africa. “[U]nless African governments and foreign interests lend support to these farmer-driven initiatives, rather than undermine them through land and water deals that benefit large-scale, commercial schemes, the best opportunity in decades for societal advancement in the region will be squandered.”
That same month, the online publication Market Oracle reported that “[t]he new ‘water barons’—the Wall Street banks and elitist multibillionaires—are buying up water all over the world at unprecedented pace.” The report reveals two phenomena that have been gathering speed, and that could potentially lead to profit accumulation at the cost of communities and commons —the expansion of market instruments beyond the water supply and sanitation to other areas of water governance, and the increasingly prominent role of financial institutions.