New database exposes the pervasiveness of toxins in our daily lives


by Katie Rojas-Jahn, September 22, 2009 • It seems like everyday when I turn on the news there’s a story about another product recall or unsafe chemical in consumer products. When I hear these stories, I can’t help but wonder how widespread the problem of toxic chemicals really is.

Last week, I got a partial answer to that question as Healthy Legacy, a public health coalition in Minnesota of which IATP is a founding member, co-released a new consumer product database,, with a Michigan-based group, the Ecology Center.

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The new database contains testing results for over 5,000 products from many different categories, including: pet products, women’s handbags, back-to-school supplies, children’s toys and the latest on cars and children’s car seats. We use so many different products in our day-to-day lives and the testing results from show just how pervasive toxic chemicals are in those products. Healthy Legacy’s Co-Director, Kathleen Schuler, was on KSTC (channel 45 in Minneapolis) to discuss the testing results. Take a look!

Alarming numbers:


Nearly 700 new and used vehicles were tested—the database shows the best and worst picks in every vehicle class. The average American spends more than 1.5 hours in their car every day, so it is disconcerting to know that the levels of some chemicals found in vehicles are 5–10 times higher than in the home or office.

Pet products:

Pets are also members of our families and so the researchers at decided to test the products meant for them as well. They tested over 400 products like beds, toys, collars and leashes and found that 45 percent of the pet products contained at least one (or more) chemical of concern. Nearly half of the pet collars tested contained detectable levels of lead, and 27 percent contained levels so high they exceeded the limit set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for children’s products (300 parts per million).

Back-to-school supplies:

Over two-thirds of the 60 common school supplies that were tested contained one or more chemical of concern, including 56 percent being made from PVC, the poison plastic.


Researchers tested more than 100 plastic women’s handbags and found lead in 75 percent of the bags analyzed. Sixty-four percent of the bags contained levels of lead over 300 ppm, and over half contained more than 1,000 ppm of lead.

What’s the solution?

Healthy Legacy is pushing for comprehensive chemical policy reform and is part of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign. The campaign is working to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), our country’s outdated legislation meant to regulate chemicals.

The reform platform would place the burden on chemical manufacturers (not product manufacturers or retailers) to test chemicals for their effects and develop hazard information. The platform would phase out chemicals we know are toxic and it would promote the development and use of safer alternatives.

The database will help us find safer alternatives to the chemical-laden products that populate our lives, but most of us aren’t able to do an exhaustive research project before heading out to the store. That’s why we need a comprehensive reform of laws that regulate chemicals in this country. We should all do what we can to make our lives safer on a daily basis, but we should also expect our government to use its resources to prevent harm before it happens!

To find out more about the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign, go visit