Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don’t you know that you’re toxic...

Britney was right! (Yeah, it's a stretch, just go with it. Don't get it? You're all the better for it, trust me.) Heh'anyway, my friend Sam sent me over this article. Seems people are slowly catching on! (I say slowly, cause the title has the word "may" in it. Baby steps, baby steps, I guess.)

"New study suggests household products may be toxic

The chemical industry is not happy because the EU is forcing them to list all chemicals and prove that they are safe rather than the US model where the government has to prove unknown (and unlisted) chemicals are dangerous. As it stands today, the burden of proof is stacked against researchers and consumer groups. The chemical industry is obviously happy with the US model which is why they are furious with the details of this new study from the University of Washington. The study claims that many household products far exceed safe levels of toxic chemicals despite what the chemical industry says.

Trouble is, you have no way of knowing it. Manufacturers of detergents, laundry sheets and air fresheners aren't required to list all of their ingredients on their labels -- or anywhere else. Laws protecting people from indoor air pollution from consumer products are limited.

When UW engineering professor Anne Steinemann analyzed of some of these popular items, she found 100 different volatile organic compounds measuring 300 parts per billion or more -- some of which can be cancerous or cause harm to respiratory, reproductive, neurological and other organ systems.

Some of the chemicals are categorized as hazardous or toxic by federal regulatory agencies. But the labels tell a different story, naming only innocuous-sounding "perfume" or "biodegradable" contents.

"Consumers are breathing these chemicals," she said. "No one is doing anything about it."

Industry representatives say that isn't so.

"Dr. Steinemann's statement is misleading and disingenuous," said Chris Cathcart, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Specialty Products Association, in a statement."


Here's the study they mention above:

"Fresh scent may hide toxic secret
by Lisa Stiffler

The scented fabric sheet makes your shirts and socks smell flowery fresh and clean. That plug-in air freshener fills your home with inviting fragrances of apple and cinnamon or a country garden.

But those common household items are potentially exposing your family and friends to dangerous chemicals, a University of Washington study has found.

"Consumers are breathing these chemicals," Anne Steinemann said. "No one is doing anything about it."

Industry representatives say that isn't so.

"Dr. Steinemann's statement is misleading and disingenuous," said Chris Cathcart, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Specialty Products Association, in a statement.

"Air fresheners, laundry products and other consumer specialty products are regulated under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act and subsequently have strict labeling requirements," he said. "Companies producing products that are regulated under FHSA must name on the product label each component that contributes to the hazard."

Millions are spent annually to ensure that fragrances in the products are safe, according to a joint statement from the Fragrance Materials Association, which represents fragrance manufacturers, and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, which works closely with the association.

Ingredients are routinely tested, and chemicals that are considered dangerous are present at levels much too low to cause harm, according to the groups.

But there are numerous reports of people -- particularly those with asthma, chemical sensitivities and allergies -- having strong adverse reactions, researchers said.

That's a problem when public restrooms in restaurants or airplanes use air fresheners, or when hotels wash towels and sheets in scented laundry supplies. And even when the concentrations are low in individual products, people are exposed to multiple sources on a daily basis.

Aileen Gagney, Asthma and Environmental Health Program manager with the American Lung Association in Seattle, herself an asthma sufferer, has a rule of thumb to help avoid exposure: "If it smells bad, it's bad; if it smells good, it's bad."

But even that won't always work.

According to Steinemann, even products labeled "unscented" sometimes contain a fragrance and a "masking" fragrance to make them odor-free.

People, Puget Sound at risk?
For Steinemann's research, published Wednesday in Environmental Impact Assessment Review, she selected a top-selling item from six categories of products: dryer sheets, fabric softeners, detergents, and solid, spray and plug-in air fresheners.

Then she contracted with a lab to test the air around the items to identify the chemicals people could be breathing.

Ten of the 100 volatile organic compounds identified qualified under federal rules as toxic or hazardous, and three of those -- 1,4-dioxane, acetaldehyde and chloromethane -- are "hazardous air pollutants" considered unsafe to breathe at any concentration, according to the study.

The labels gave no indication that the irritating and potentially dangerous chemicals were present, so Steinemann checked the product's Material Safety Data Sheets. These technical documents provide ingredient information for the safety of workers and emergency responders. They, too, disclosed little detail, mostly citing ingredients such as "essential oils" and "organic perfume."

"It's a reasonable expectation to think that laundry products and air fresheners would be free of chemicals that can cause cancer," said Erika Schreder, a staff scientist with the Washington Toxics Coalition.

"But as this UW study shows, it's disturbingly easy to find toxic chemicals in everyday products like these because companies don't have to say what's in their products."

Cathcart, of the Consumer Specialty Products Association, said the information's not on the package because the "chemicals are not present in the products at levels deemed hazardous under the law. Given the limited space on product labels, it is important to include the relevant information consumers need to make intelligent use, storage and disposal decisions."

The threat isn't limited to people. Steinemann and others worry that the chemicals in consumer products flow from homes to the outdoors.

"These chemicals get into our water systems and into Puget Sound," she said. They are "extraordinarily hard to get out of the environment."

Steinemann's research was paid for using discretionary money awarded to her as a UW professor; she wanted to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. She has also submitted for publication a study that goes further to examine ingredients in cleaning and personal-care products.

Regulatory gaps
With fears growing over chemicals in consumer products -- lead in toys, bisphenol A in plastic baby bottles, phthalates in shower curtains and cosmetics -- environmentalists and health advocates are calling for stricter regulations of chemicals in everyday goods. They also want shoppers to have more readily accessible information.

Manufacturers and trade groups representing consumer products routinely counter that there's plenty of testing and oversight from within the industries and from government regulations to ensure safety.

In the fragranced-products arena, they point to industry Web sites with information on product ingredients and suggest contacting companies with specific questions.

Critics maintain that's not enough.

"There's obviously a loophole," said Michael Robinson-Dorn, a UW law professor who aided Steinemann's research. "We regulate many of these chemicals in other circumstances, yet when they're in products that we're in contact with daily, in some cases, we don't wind up finding out about them."

He said the items can slip between regulatory cracks by falling into the jurisdiction of multiple government agencies, none taking ownership.

"Any time you have a product that is regulated by many different agencies, it's easy for them not to react," he said.

In the absence of strong laws, the marketplace is starting to regulate itself.

After the Natural Resources Defense Council last fall found troubling levels of phthalates -- plasticizing chemicals that can potentially harm developing babies -- in air fresheners, Walgreens pulled the products from its shelves.

Last month, NRDC and other environmental groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency to force manufacturers to test air freshener safety and label products with a full ingredient list.

Steinemann's study could push the process along.

"Consumer demand for less-toxic products will encourage companies to reformulate their products," she said. "This is a case where a little information could have a great public benefit."

There are also a few useful charts from the article you should check out. Thanks Sam!


Anonymous said...

How about a little sound science here? I found this on another website:

"The study found 58 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at levels above a concentration of 300 parts per billion but did not list the concentration of each chemical. To put this in context, 300 parts per billion is just above the level of analytical detection for these materials. Ingredients which sound scary when listed by their chemical names are materials that occur naturally in everyday items, often in much larger quantities than may be used in fragranced products. Some examples include: alpha-Pinene (pine forests); Acetone (cheddar cheese, apple juice, strawberries); 2-Butanone (coffee, citrus fruit, grapes); Benzaldehyde (white bread – at >40,000 ppm, roasted coffee – at 2,000 ppm, apple juice – at around 300 ppm); Ethanol (blackberries, cauliflower, cherries, cucumbers); Ethyl acetate( honey, tomatoes, vinegar).

It would be folly to declare the numerous pine forests lining the west and east coasts toxic or hazardous just because they give off the VOC, alpha-pinene. Even more folly to put a hazard warning on a tomato which naturally contains 8501 parts per million of benzaldehye. Or even to require forests and tomatoes to be labeled with their constituent chemicals. So why does Steinemann want the fragrance industry to label the very low levels of these same chemicals when contained in our products, and why does she impute that these chemicals are hazardous when clearly that is not the case? "

The facts kind of add balance don't they? I was taught never to trust anything I read until I had checked the facts. Seems like good advice in this case.

Lynda said...

Maybe household items are so toxic because of ties between the Chemical companies and the EPA
Chemical companies and the US Environmental Protection Agency

EPA, Chemical Manufacturers Assn, toluene, Public Health.
My writing is on the very strong possibility, the US environmental protection agency may be influenced by outside forces that make it virtually impossible for it to be totally objective. This includes men in top positions with ties to the Chemical Manufacturers Association. The name is now American Chemistry Council. One of its subgroups is the American Solvent Council. The names and positions of these men are James Connaughton, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality and Jeffry Holmstead EPA's director of Air and Radiation. Both men are directly associated with the American Chemical Council, formerly the Chemical Manufacturers Assn. The official lobbying group for chemical companies.
Several of his oncologists believe my husband's myelofibrosis and possibly his acute myeloid leukemia subtype M7 was caused by a certain substance. This substance was toluene.. Jerry was in contact with this when he was employed in a dry cleaners for seven years. He worked with this chemical weekly. It is a solvent and a hydrocarbon. According to the Oxford American Dictionary toluene is a derivative of benzene.

There are seven subtypes of acute myeloid leukemia. Suffice to say for the purpose of my article M7 is the type caused by scarring of the bone marrow, aka myelofibrosis. Myelofibrosis is considered by the medical profession as a myeloproliferative disease. The definition of myeloproliferative is as follows: Proliferation of cells in the bone marrow. These cells include white blood cells, red blood cells (corpuscles) and platelets. Myelo is the medical term for bone marrow.

I noticed, within days, in my search for toluene as a carcinogen one glaring note. Most of the medical sites claimed the chemical did cause cancer. It was a factor in the blood cancers. The EPA a US govt. agency said it wasn't carcinogenic. It did state it was a probable human carcinogen. However it stopped from stating it caused cancer. In other words it went, metaphorically speaking, getting engaged, planning the entire wedding and then getting cold feet and calling the marriage off.
The chemical is known scientifically as methylbenzene. Benzene is dealkylation of toluene. Dealkylation is when are more than one alkyl group is substituted for atoms of hydrogen. The relationship to toluene is this. Toluene is an alkyl group bound to a benzene ring. I find it at the very
least intriguing that benzene and toluene are so closely tied together. The two are definitely related. Please note benzene is definitely linked with causing leukemia. Its suspected to be a causative factor in Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma and Acute Lymphatic Leukemia. These are cancers of components of the bone marrow. I can hardly believe its a mere coincidence toluene is so closely linked to benzene. Toluene is an analogous compound to benzene. In fact it is derived from Benzene. Hydrodealkylation turns toluene to benzene. Source. hydrodealkylation The link to toluene and cancer been known for 20years

Toluene is used in the paint industry in paint thinners, Dry Cleaning companies, adhesive manufacturing, as a solvent in many industries, machinery manufacturing and repair, insecticides, pharmacueticals, printing, wood staining and varnishes. Source Scorecard is an unbiased source on information on polluting chemicals.
Medical sites such as,, claims it does cause leukemia. US Government sites for the most part says it doesn't. I wonder if the fact that two of the officials of the EPA are with major connections of the Chemical Manufacturers Association. The Chemical Manufacturers Association are one of the biggest contributors to George W. Bush's presidency. I don't believe this is merely coincidence. The CMA defends some of the worst polluters in the US. Or if you're Jungian, synchronicity either for that matter.

Maybe this doesn't exactly prove the EPA is being influenced by the CMA. However at the very least it certainly doesn't look Kosher either. No govt. agency of what ever nation should be composed of people with any conflict of interest of what ever kind.

Here are some links to medical sites I found by doing a search on toluene and cancer using This is a health search engine used by health care professionals. Health consumers can use it too. It uses,, Everyone of them are professional medical resources. This is on myelofibrosis. This is a condition that causes scarring of the bone marrow. It can be linked to acute myeloid leukemia. Its the subtype M7 type. Topic AML. says certain organic chemicals such as benzene and toluene are linked to AML. Each of these links definitely state there is a direct link between toluene and acute myeloid leukemia and myelofibrosis. Each of these links are true medical sites.

do know the CMA, in 1998, petitioned the EPA (environmental protection agency) to declare toluene as not being a volatile organic compound. This ruling still stands. The truth is it most certainly is. One way of knowing if any substance is volatile is to note an odor. Toluene definitely smells. Its the exact same substance used in glue, nail polish, nail polish remover. Each of these items exhibits a somewhat strong, sweet odor. In fact it was this aromatic quality that led to glue sniffing to get high. This glue contains toluene.

Toluene definitely is odoriferous. Howeever its perfume next t when the EPA says something is non-carcinogenic when medical professionals claim it is. I wonder how many people's health is severely damaged because of this discrepancy? Millions of females from lets say, twelve to whenever paint their nails, practically daily. How many are exposed to toluene. I would venture to say millions, if not tens of
adparams.getadspec('c_billboard1'); I discovered that the secretary of the interior under the George W. Bush administration had direct connections with the Chemical Nanufacturers Association. My suspicion is the CMA is influencing the EPA to the detriment of the health of the US population.

Maybe I'm wrong. Yet when I see some of the top level people of the Bush presidency are connected with an organization with much to gain with lax environmental rulings I became rather suspicious. This is especially so when they just happen to be major contributors to G.W. Bush. I find it quite difficult believe its merely coincidental. On the contrary I think its no accident that the EPA isn't as reliable , trustworthy as it should be.

My husband may have been a victim of the CMA influence of the EPA. I wonder how many others were victimized too. Believing they were dealing with non carcinogens when in reality they were. I wonder too, how many other carcinogens or for that matter, chemicals US citizens are in the dark because of undue influence by professional groups with agendas influencing the EPA?
One may say, well isn't everything composed of chemicals. Yes, of course this is true. However these are firms that deal exclusively in the chemicals themselves. It certainly seems to me that any organization that holds an agenda that prevents any US government agency not totally objective should be disallowed to be an influence. This includes anybody with any connections with such organizations. The EPA and every other US govt. organization should not be tainted. People's health and trust is at stake

Sam said...

You're welcome!

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