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E-M:/ New Report Finds Hazardous Chemicals in Household Dust of Michigan Residents

Title: New Report Finds Hazardous Chemicals in Household Dust
New Report Finds Hazardous Chemicals in Household Dust of Michigan Residents

Hazardous Chemicals from Everyday Items Found in Homes

Federal and State Governments Urged to Phase-Out  Most Dangerous Chemicals and Require Safer Alternatives
        A national study released yesterday found thirty-five hazardous industrial chemicals in the common household dust samples taken from 70 homes across the U.S. including 10 homes in Michigan. The study -- Sick of Dust: Chemicals in Common Products - a Needless Health Threat in Our Homes - is the first in the U.S. to look at a new and wide range of chemicals used in computers, cosmetics, upholstery, pesticides and other products.  All of these chemicals are legal despite the fact that they are internationally recognized as toxic or harmful to the immune and reproductive systems.  Babies and young children are particularly at risk from exposure.

        Ten households were tested in Michigan.  Residents in Detroit, West Bloomfield, East Lansing, Traverse City, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor vacuumed their homes and sent the vacuum bags to a national testing lab for analysis. 

            "As a participant in this dust study I was shocked to see how many potentially hazardous chemicals are in my home." said State Representative Chris Kolb.   "I did not voluntarily open my home to this toxic cocktail and I doubt anyone else would either.  We need to demand safer products, full disclosure of the risks, and complete accountability from our chemical industries and manufacturers.  This dust study is a real wake up call." 

State Representative Chris Kolb recently had legislation signed into law banning the use of some brominated flame retardants in Michigan and continues his work on legislation to help ensure that families are protected from hazardous chemical compounds in their homes and neighborhoods.

   Sick of Dust outlines all of the major chemicals that were found in the dust samples, their health risks, and the products they are found in.  The report also ranks brand name companies and retailers on their use of hazardous chemicals and reveals what fundamental changes are needed to bring American chemical regulation up to a level that will protect our basic health and that of future generations.  For a copy of the full report please visit www.safer-products.org.

  "If we can send a man to the moon, we can make a safe product that don't threaten kid's health" said Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center. "We need to phase out chemicals that are known to cause major health problems and require safer alternatives which are readily available."

The Sick of Dust report found six main types of chemicals in people's homes:

1) Alkylphenols - Found in laundry detergents, textiles, hair-coloring, paints and all-purpose cleaners.  These chemicals are widely recognized to mimic natural estrogen hormones leading to altered sexual development in some organisms.

2) Organotin Compounds - Found in PVC (polyvinyl chloride) water pipes, PVC food packing materials, glass coatings, polyurethane foams, and many other consumer products.  These chemicals are very poisonous even in small amounts.  They can disrupt the hormone, reproductive and immune systems.  Animal studies show that exposure early in life can also have long-term effects on brain development.

3) Perfluorinated Organics - Used to make Teflon, Goretex and other oil-, water- and stain-resistant materials for nonstick frying pans, utensils, stove hoods, stain-proof carpets, furniture and clothes.  These chemicals have been shown to damage organ function and sexual development in lab animals, and are potentially carcinogenic.

4) Pesticides - Applied in and around homes for controlling infestations of various insects and used in carpets. Pesticides include a wide range of chemicals. Some are associated with cancer, reproductive effects and birth defects, and many are toxic to the nervous system.

5) Phthalates - Used primarily in vinyl (PVC) products such as shower curtains, raincoats, toys, furniture and flooring.  Also used in paint, pesticides and personal care products (perfume, nail polish, hairspray).  These chemicals disrupt reproductive systems in animal studies, particularly in male offspring and can contribute to male infertility. They have been linked to asthma and respiratory problems in children.

6) Polybrominated dephenyl ethers (Brominated Flame Retardants) - Applied to textiles or incorporated into plastics, foams and electrical goods to prevent or slow the spread of fire.   These chemicals build up in the body and persist for long periods of time in the environment.  Studies show they damage the development of the nervous and behavioral systems in young animals.  American women have the highest levels of these chemicals tested for in breast milk.

Exposure to this "toxic cocktail" is unnecessary and avoidable.  As a nation we can progress in three primary ways:

1) Chemical Regulation Overhaul
- The vast majority of chemicals in commerce lack information on their human health and environmental impacts.  The Federal Government needs to require the chemical industry to fill in these data gaps and phase out those chemicals which promote cancer, reproductive, and neurological damage to humans, particularly children. Such chemicals of high concern should be a priority for substitution with safer chemicals in products.  Meanwhile, state governments in the U.S. are taking action.  In Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Washington legislation is underway or has already passed to phase out some of the most dangerous chemicals.  Europe can serve as an example.  Home to the largest chemical industry in the world, Europe is currently overhauling its chemicals policy to make chemical producers supply missing data.  Chemicals of high concern will require special authorization to be produced and used which will lead to many highly toxic chemicals being dropped from commerce.
2) Corporate Responsibility -- Companies such as Dell, IKEA, Herman Miller and Shaw Carpets are examples of how companies can use safer chemicals in their product lines. Innovation is both feasible and profitable and other companies need to set similar goals and get active. 

3) Consumer Action -- As a consumer, pay attention to the products you buy and find out if the brand name company you buy from is working toward a safe chemicals policy.  Try to avoid items made with vinyl (PVC), brominated flame retardants and other harmful chemicals. See www.safer-products.org for more information including our company ranking on chemicals used in products.

      "We need action at many levels to redesign products so they are healthy and safe.  We need a commitment from manufacturers and designers to rededicate themselves to the task of making useful products that don't contain hazardous chemicals, we need legislative action to protect health and to phase out the worst chemicals, and we need the chemical industry to focus on green and ecological chemistry as they make the building blocks for our consumer products," said Tracey Easthope, MPH, of the Ecology Center.

  "We also urge the legislature to move quickly to phase out deca BDE, a highly persistent brominated flame retardant found in dust samples throughout the State.  The legislature took the first laudable step when if phased out penta and octaBDE, not it needs to finish the job and phase out deca," said Easthope. 

Businesses interested in adopting a Safer Chemicals Pledge should visit the Ecology Center's website at www.ecocenter.org.

Relevant introduced Michigan legislation: HB 4428  DEQ and DCH list pollutants that most adversely impact children, put on website.  Referred to Natural Resources, Great Lakes.. 03/01/05.