Episode Recap — Phasing out Hazardous Chemicals from the Marketplace
In this episode of Living Natural Today: Out with Toxins, In with Your Health, Teresa interviewed Mike Schade of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. For approximately the last year Mike has spearheaded the Mind the Store campaign, a national effort which aims to work with the nation’s leading retailers to phase out hazardous chemicals from products on their store shelves.
The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition, based in Washington DC, is a national coalition representing over 450 organizations and businesses united by a common concern about toxic chemicals in our homes, places of work, and products we use every day. The coalition is fighting for reform of our outdated toxic chemical laws, working with retailers to phase out hazardous chemicals from the marketplace and educating the public about ways to protect one’s family from toxic chemicals.
What Drove Mike Schade to be Interested in Environmental Causes?
As he was growing up and going to school, Mike began being drawn to environmental causes. As a native of New York, he witnessed first-hand the pollution from the medical waste industry at Jones Beach, a popular New York Beach. His eyes were further opened in College as he studied about toxic waste and its impact on families at Love Canal, a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York that was literally built on top of a toxic waste dump. More importantly, he learned – in part because of the campaign by Lois Gibbs to get Love Canal cleaned up – that ordinary people can make a difference in protecting their community from hazardous chemicals. This was inspiring.
TSCA and the Public as Guinea Pigs
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is ineffective and flawed. Passed in 1976, it is our nation’s primary law aimed at regulating chemicals used in every day products. However this law is outdated, ineffective and severely flawed. With approximately 80,000 – 85,000 chemicals registered in the market and available for use since the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976, very few have been tested for their impacts on human health and the environment. Additionally, TSCA allows chemical manufacturers to keep the ingredients in some chemicals secret and the law makes it difficult for consumers and businesses to find the information they need to identify which chemicals are safe and unsafe. Furthermore, instead of requiring chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are safe before they go into use, the law says the government has to prove actual harm in order to control or replace a dangerous chemical. We are the guinea pigs!
Efforts have been made in Congress to reform this fundamentally broken law – but as you can imagine, progress is very slow and partisan. It is hopeful that the next Congress works on a compromise that protects American families from hazardous chemicals and is the real reform we all deserve.
Mind the Store Campaign — Working with the Top 100 Retailers to Remove Hazardous Chemicals from Store Shelves
Because real reform at the Federal level is moving slower than desired the “Mind the Store Campaign” was launched. The premise of the Campaign is that retailers have a moral obligation to ensure products sold on their store shelves are healthy and free of hazardous chemicals. The campaign challenges the 10 largest retailers in the nation to clean up their supply chain to ensure products on store shelves do not contain the worst-of-the-worst chemicals, dubbed the Hazardous 100+. These ten retailers can wield enormous influence over their suppliers to really make a difference in addressing hazardous chemicals in products. These ten retailers include Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Kroger, Safeway, CVS, Best Buy, Lowes, Home Depot and Costco. Click here to send emails to these top retailers encouraging them to remove hazardous chemicals from their products.
Phylates – One of the Worst Offenders
According to Schade, over 90% of phylates are used to make PVC vinyl plastic soft and flexible. Phylates can be found in lunch boxes, backpacks and fragrance products to name a few. Those most vulnerable to exposure are pregnant women, infants in the womb and young children. Phylates are linked to reproductive health problems in boys, early puberty in girls, asthma, developmental problems, obesity and more. While Phylates are banned in children’s toys, they are still common in many other household items.
How Do I Know What Chemicals are in Products and What do I do?
Mike suggested the following practical steps to ensure you avoid the worst offending chemcials:
(1) Avoid products made with PVC Plastic
(2) Avoid products where the Packaging has a “3” or “V” inside or underneath recycling symbol
(3) Search out Products that are certified “environmentally friendly”
(4) Leverage the following databases:
Databases to Assist Consumers
- Database of “chemicals of concern” in building materials
- The Pharos Project is the most independent and comprehensive database for identifying health hazards associated with building products. The Pharos Project encourages manufacturers to disclose all ingredients in building products; helps architects, designers and building owners avoid using products that contain harmful chemicals; and creates incentives for product redesign and modification to reduce the impacts of hazardous materials use throughout the lifecycle of building products.
- EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database
- Allows user to search more than 70,000 products
- This site is packed with important health information about the cosmetics you – and your family – use every day. You’ll find product and ingredient safety ratings, health information about cosmetics ingredients and smart shopping tips you can trust.
- Healthy Child Healthy World
- Website includes an “Easy Steps Library” of tried and true recommendations to make your home (and world) a cleaner, greener, safer place to raise your child.
State leaders are learning from one another. They are building on the progress of their neighbors and working in coalition to build progress. States are leading the nation with solutions, and calling on Congress to improve our country’s chemical stewardship and protect human health. More than 150 state policies have been enacted to protect citizens from harmful chemicals, forming the foundation for federal change.
Toxic Hot Seat – HBO Documentary showing why flame retardants are hazardous