APPENDIX II-BS:  Permethrin Persists for Years in Household Dust: Costner, et al, “Sick of Dust: Chemicals in Common Products—A Needless Health Risk in Our Homes,  Safer Products Project.

 

This appendix is copied from:

 

 

http://www.safer-products.org/downloads/Dust%20Report.pdf

 

 

http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:NPchyNxbQJgJ:www.cleanproduction.org/library/Dust%2520Report.pdf+costner+sick+of+dust&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us&client=firefox‑a

 

 

 

Chemicals in Common Products—

A Needless Health Risk in Our Homes

Pat Costner, Beverley Thorpe & Alexandra McPherson Safer Products

P R O J E C T

M A R C H 2 0 0 5

 

Sick of Dust

Chemicals in Common Products—

A Needless Health Risk in Our Homes

Pat Costner, Beverley Thorpe & Alexandra McPherson

M A R C H 2 0 0 5

Safer Products P R O J E C T

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 2

Sick of Dust

Chemicals In Common Products —

A Needless Health Risk In Our Homes

Acknowledgments to all the state groups who

took part in the dust sampling and report reviews:

Ecology Center, Michigan

Washington Toxics Coalition

Oregon Environmental Council

The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, Massachusetts

Citizens Environmental Coalition, New York State

Environmental Health Strategy Center, Maine

Center for Environmental Health, California

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, California.

We wish to particularly thank the following

foundations for their support

John Merck Fund

Panta Rhea Foundation

Homeland Foundation

Overbrook Foundation

Mitchell Kapor Foundation

New York Community Trust

We also thank Lowell Center for Sustainable Production,

Pesticide Action Network and Silent Spring Institute.

A project of Clean Production Action

A U T H O R S

Pat Costner

Beverley Thorpe

Alexandra McPherson

P R O D U C T I O N C R E D I T S

CONCEPT/DESIGN/PRODUCTION

David Gerratt/Nonprofi tDesign.com

CHEMICAL HOUSE ILLUSTRATION

John Klossner

LOGO & PRODUCT ICON ILLUSTRATIONS

Nate Walker

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 3

T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S

5 Executive Summary

7 Why We Tested for Hazardous Chemicals in House Dust

13 What We Found

Findings and summary of concern for each chemical class

Phthalates

Alkylphenols

Pesticides

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers

Organotins

Perfl uorinated Chemicals

27 Why Our Regulatory System Is Failing Us

31 Europe’s New Chemical Policy: REACH

35 Product Manufacturers and Retailers Respond to Chemical Risks

41 We Can Do Better: The Way Forward to Safe Chemicals

46 Report Endnotes

49 Appendix I

Hazardous chemicals found in dust samples

Additional Chemical Information

Phthalates

Alkylphenols and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates

Pesticides: Permethrins, Pentachlorophenol and DDT

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

Organotins

Perfl uorinated Chemicals

66 Appendix II

Ranking of Companies and Retailers:

An overview of their chemicals policies

74 Appendix III

Analytical methods

83 Appendices Endnotes

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 4

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 5

E X E C U T I V E S U M M A R Y

The fi rst U.S. study to test house- he fi rst U.S. study to test household

dust for a new and wide

variety of chemicals found

disturbing evidence of toxic

chemicals in ordinary homes across the

country. The study documents a range of country. The study documents a range of

hazardous chemicals found in household dust hazardous chemicals found in household dust

in 70 homes in seven states. All the chemicals in 70 homes in seven states. All the chemicals

found are toxic and harmful to the immune and found are toxic and harmful to the immune and

reproductive systems in animal tests. The chem- reproductive systems in animal tests. The chemicals

are used in mass quantities in electronic icals are used in mass quantities in electronic

products, cosmetics, vinyl fl ooring, uphol- products, cosmetics, vinyl fl ooring, upholstery

and other everyday products that many stery and other everyday products that many

people wrongfully assume are safe. Babies and

young children are particularly at risk from

exposure to these chemicals.

This study shows that the US federal regulatory

system has failed in protecting people from exposure to hazardous chemicals including

toxic fl ame retardants, pesticides, and hormone disrupting chemicals. Exposure to these

chemicals is unnecessary and avoidable. Europe is overhauling chemical legislation to protect

public health and promote the production of safer chemicals and products. Some US

states across the country are working to pass protective legislation for safer alternatives.

Progressive companies such as Dell, IKEA, Herman Miller and Shaw Carpets have achieved

success in fi nding safer chemicals for their product lines. But to date, the U.S. federal government

has taken little action and the majority of US companies have no policies in place

to favor safer chemicals and production methods.

This report documents the presence of hazardous chemicals in household dust, the

health risks associated with the chemicals and the products they are found in. The report

also ranks brand name companies and retailers on their use of hazardous chemicals and reveals

the fundamental changes that are needed to bring American chemical regulation up

to a level that will protect our basic health and that of future generations.

Key Findings

1. All composite samples were contaminated by all six of the chemical classes we investigated:

phthalates, pesticides, alkylphenols, brominated fl ame retardants, organotins and

perfl uorinated compounds. This is the fi rst U.S. study to document levels of organotins

and perfl uorinated compounds in household dust.

2. Toxic chemicals are brought into our homes through ordinary consumer products including

vinyl fl ooring, foam cushions, pest control products, fabrics, and cookware. Most

of the chemicals found in this study have also been detected in breast milk as well as

blood and/or urine.

Hazardous chemicals are regularly used as additives in

consumer goods, yet our current system of regulation allows

them to continue to be brought into our homes in products.

(See page 9 for a full description of our “Chemical House.”)

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 6

In order to leave a legacy for the next generation worthy

of our abilities, we need to generate billions of dollars of new

public and private investment in clean energy technologies.

A key assumption of this report is that a more thoughtful

and widespread engagement on innovation approaches and

opportunities is needed to attract new capital to this sector.

3. Hazardous chemicals in house dust adds to our ongoing exposure to synthetic chemical

contaminants in water, air and food. Each composite sample contained hormone disrupting

chemicals together with chemicals associated with allergies, impaired nervous and

immune systems, cancer, reproductive and developmental effects.

4. Some companies have demonstrated that the transition to safer chemicals and material

use is feasible and profi table. The report showcases four companies that searched for and

found safer chemicals for their product lines. A transition to safe chemical use should be

a priority across all product sectors.

The study participants cannot be blamed for contaminating

their homes with these toxic chemicals. Rather, blame must be

placed squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. regulatory system,

which allows dangerous chemicals to be put into consumer products,

does not require even minimal safety testing for the majority

of chemicals currently in use, and has virtually no prohibitions in

place to reduce exposure to chemicals known to cause harm. The

U.S. chemical industry must also take responsibility for failing to

replace chemicals of known toxicity with safer substitutes. Manufacturers of cosmetics, furniture,

computers, fl ooring and other products must also take responsibility to ensure

that their products are safe and free of harmful chemicals.

The American people deserve to be safe in our own homes, and should be able to purchase

products without unwittingly exposing ourselves and our children to substances that

can cause cancer and disrupt development. This study provides solid evidence that the federal

government, US states, and US industry must take immediate action to replace harmful

chemicals with safe substitutes.

Recommended Actions

1. The federal government must phase out the most hazardous chemicals from production

and use. Comprehensive data on chemicals used in commerce should be required and

toxicity information should be used as a basis to replace the most hazardous chemicals

with safer substitutes. These include chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption,

developmental and reproductive harm.

2. States should take strong action now to phase out chemicals with known or likely hazards.

A number of states are currently considering bans on the toxic fl ame retardants PBDEs,

which have been found in house dust as well as in breast milk. States should also support

businesses using safer processes and chemicals.

3. The chemical industry should supply environmental and human health data for untested

chemicals currently in production and immediately phase out the production of those

chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, developmental or reproductive harm.

The chemical industry should begin an aggressive adoption of Green Chemistry Principles.

4. Retailers and product manufacturers should establish substitution plans for all high risk

chemicals, placing a priority on chemicals detected in this study. Design strategies exist

to help companies use safe chemicals.

This study provides solid evidence

that the federal government, US

states, and US industry must take

immediate action to replace harmful

chemicals with safe substitutes.

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 7

Chemical contamination is now

global—reaching even polar regions

where no chemical production

or use takes place. Hazardous

chemicals are in our rain, rivers, oceans,

air and food. Our exposures routes are

many. Toxic chemicals in our environment

build up in the food chain. We can be particularly

exposed through chemicals in food

at the top of the food chain such as meat,

eggs, fi sh and dairy which can be contaminated

from pesticide use on crops and chemically

contaminated sewage sludge spread

on land, as two examples. Communities can

be exposed more directly and in greater

volumes from manufacturing plant emissions

or pesticide use on farms. Children

are the most vulnerable because they are

more exposed and their nervous, immune

and reproductive systems are still developing.

Their responses to hormone signals

from endocrine disruptors can lead to permanent

alterations of their organ systems.

Once upon a time, household dust was

just a nuisance. In a pinch, it was swept under

the rug. No more. Today house dust is a

toxic menace. House dust is a time capsule

of chemical contaminants that come into

the home. Since most people spend about

69–90 percent of their time indoors,2,3 there

is ample opportunity for frequent and prolonged

exposure to the dust and its load

of contaminants.

This dust study and previous others provide

evidence of the widespread presence of

hazardous chemicals in household products.

Chemicals migrate, leach out of, or otherwise

escape from consumer products during

W H Y W E T E S T E D F O R C H E M I C A L S I N H O U S E D U S T W H Y W E T E S T E D F O R C H E M I C A L S I N H O U S E D U S T

Household dust is a potentially signifi cant source

for both dermal and ingestion exposure to hazardous

chemicals present in the home.1

normal use leading to their accumulation

in the dust of every household tested.

Plasticizers, fl ame retardants, and surfactants

are just some examples of chemicals

that are brought home in everyday products

People have no way of knowing that these

contaminants are in the products they buy and

bring home, much less that these “stealth”

contaminants will end up in the air and dust

in their homes.

as ingredients that are seldom listed on the as ingredients that are seldom listed on the

labels. These products that are presumed to labels. These products that are presumed to

pose no toxic threat include furniture, car- pose no toxic threat include furniture, carpets,

televisions, computers, shampoos, and pets, televisions, computers, shampoos, and

fl ooring. People have no way of knowing fl ooring. People have no way of knowing

that these contaminants are in the products that these contaminants are in the products

they buy and bring home, much less that they buy and bring home, much less that

these “stealth” contaminants will end up these “stealth” contaminants will end up

in the air and dust of their homes. Why are in the air and dust of their homes. Why are

manufacturers putting toxic chemicals in manufacturers putting toxic chemicals in

and on the products they sell for household and on the products they sell for household

and personal use when, sooner or later, those and personal use when, sooner or later, those

chemicals become household contaminants chemicals become household contaminants

that threaten the health of their customers? that threaten the health of their customers?

Why don’t the government agencies that Why don’t the government agencies that

are supposed to protect public health stop are supposed to protect public health stop

the sale of such products? the sale of such products?

North Americans spend about 69–90 percent

of their time indoors, most of that at cent of their time indoors, most of that at

home. home.4 A study in the Seattle area found that

children spent 66 percent of their time in- children spent 66 percent of their time indoors

at home and 21 percent indoors away doors at home and 21 percent indoors away

from home, while the elderly spent 83–88 from home, while the elderly spent 83–88

percent of their time indoors at home. percent of their time indoors at home.5 No

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 8

Photo: Fuel Cell Energy

wonder house dust is an important pathway

of toxic exposures especially for children

whose risk from dust-borne contaminants

may be 40 times higher than that of adults.

As they play and crawl on the fl oor, children

skin and mucous membranes; cancer of a

variety of tissues and organs; and developmental

effects.8

For this study, six groups of contaminants

were selected that represent only a

small portion of the wide range of chemicals

that may be found in our homes. The

chemical intruders that were detected are:

Phthalates are used primarily as plasticizers

in fl exible polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

plastic (commonly known as vinyl), which

accounts for 80–90 percent of the world

plasticizer consumption.9 Phthalates are

also used in nail polishes, hair sprays,

and as solvents and perfume fi xatives in

various other products,10 as well as in the

enteric coatings of some medications.11

Alkylphenols are mainly used to make

alkylphenol ethoxylates found in household

and industrial cleaners, paints,

textile and leather treatments, pulp

and paper processing, and agricultural

chemicals.12,13

Pesticides are directly released, indoors

and outdoors, to get rid of insects, weeds

and molds. They are also incorporated

into soaps and household cleaning products,

paints, wall papers, etc. They are

also applied to carpets, textiles, and

other products prior to sale.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are used

as fl ame retardants primarily in plastics,

especially polyurethane foam and high

impact polystyrene, but also in paints,

textiles and electronics.14,15

Organotins are used as additives for

polyvinyl chloride (PVC); as stabilizers in

PVC pips, as catalysts in the production

of rigid polyurethanes and silicones; as

fungicides and miticides in agriculture;

and as preservatives/antifoulants on

wood surfaces, in closed-circuit cooling

towers and in marine paints.16 Additives

for PVC account for about 70 percent of

organotin use.17

Perfl uorinated surfactants: Perfl uorooctanyl

sulfate (PFOS) and perfl uorooctanoic

acid (PFOA) are used in fl oor

polishes, photographic fi lm, denture

All of these chemicals migrate, leach out of, or

otherwise escape from consumer products during

normal use. Most have been reported as contaminants

in indoor air and household dust as well as in the

breast milk, blood and other tissues of humans.

may take in fi ve times as much dust while

their immature organs and immune system

make them more vulnerable to toxic insults.6

What are the chemical intruders in the

dust? For this study, we chose six chemical

classes for analysis beause they are all listed

as Chemicals for Priority Action within the

OSPAR Convention. This international

convention represents 15 countries in the

North East Atlantic and includes international

observers such as the Organization

for Economic Cooperation and Development

(OECD). The mission of the OSPAR

convention is to protect the marine environment

through measures which include

“every endeavour to move towards the target

of the cessation of discharges, emissions

and losses of hazardous substances by the

year 2020.” OSPAR and previous international

conventions have monitored the increase

of the most hazardous chemicals in

the marine environment for almost two

decades, collected data on effects, and continued

to advocate pollution prevention

measures within industry sectors that use

these chemicals.

These chemicals are listed as Chemical

for Priority Action because most, if not all,

are toxic in various ways. For example, all

six groups we tested include chemicals that

are endocrine disruptors or hormone disruptors

which can cause adverse health

effects in humans and animals or their offspring.

7 Many of the chemicals are associated

with allergic responses; suppressed or

hyperactive immune systems; impaired respiratory,

cardiovascular; nervous, and reproductive

systems; irritated or infl amed

TVs & Computers

Electronic products

can contain

brominated fl ame

retardants (PBDEs)

which disrupt the

nervous system. American women

have the highest global levels of

PBDEs tested for in breast milk.

Electronic products and cables can

be made of PVC (vinyl) which contains

phthalates. Phthalates can be

toxic to the reproductive system and

are linked to increased incidences

of childhood asthma. PVC also uses

organotins which are toxic to the

immune and reproductive system.

Carpeting & Flooring

Kitchen and bathroom fl oors are

often made of vinyl (Polyvinyl Chloride

—PVC). Carpets can also be backed

with PVC. PVC releases phthalates,

reproductive toxins, which are linked

to increased incidences of childhood asthma. PVC can

also contain organotins which are toxic to the immune

and reproductive system. Carpets can contain PBDEs,

a brominated fl ame retardant, and PFOAs, a perfl uorinated

chemical. Both are global contaminants. PBDEs

disrupt the nervous system and American women have

the highest levels tested for in breast milk. PFOAs are

highly persistent and known to cause cancer in

animal tests.

Furniture

Furniture foam and

textiles can contain

PBDEs and PFOAs –

perfl uorinated chemicals.

Both are global

contaminants. PBDEs disrupt the

nervous system and American women

now have the highest levels tested for

in breast milk. PFOAs are highly persistent

and known to cause cancer

in animal tests.

Mattresses

Mattresses

can contain

PBDEs—a

brominated

fl ame retardant.

PBDEs are found widely

in the environment. They

disrupt the nervous system

and American women now

have the highest levels

tested for in breast milk.

Retailers

Many retailers who

sell household products

do not screen their

products for chemicals

known to present risks

to the environment or human health.

Retailers currently sell pesticides, electronics,

rugs, furniture, and vinyl that

contain chemicals known to adversely

affect the reproductive sytem or cause

cancer in animal studies. Some retailers

have drawn up lists of prohibited chemicals

which they instruct their suppliers

to avoid but most retailers have no

chemical policy.

Personal Care/Cosmetics

Many personal

care products

(shampoo, perfume,

soap, make

up) contain and

release phthalates and alkylphenols.

Phthalates can be toxic to the reproductive

system and are linked

to increased incidences of childhood

asthma. Alkylphenols can

disrupt the hormone and reproductive

system.

Chemical

House

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 9

Pesticides

Pesticides are

used in pet

products and

applied in and

around homes for

insect control. They are also used

in carpets to prevent infestations

of insects and dust mites. Many

pesticides previously taken off

the market are still present in our

food and bodies. Many pesticides

sold today are linked to disruption

of the hormone and reproductive

system as well as being suspected

carcinogens.

Chemical

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 10

cleaners, shampoos, herbicides, insecticides,

and adhesives in a wide range of

products, as well as for surface treatment

of clothing and carpets and cookware.

PFOA is the best-known of the PFCs because

it is used to make Tefl on, Goretex,

and other oil-, water- and stain-resistant

materials used in many common items

including nonstick frying pans, utensils,

stove hoods, stainproofed carpets, furniture,

and clothes. PFOA is also used in

fi re-fi ghting foams, mining and oil well

surfactants, and the manufacture of

other fl uoropolymers.18, 19, 20, 21 PFOS is

considered to be the fi nal degradation

product of many of the commercially

used perfl uorinated chemicals and is

the predominant perfl uorinated acid

found in most environments that have

been studied.22

The majority of these chemicals are

also persistent: they don’t break down

readily in the environment, especially in

indoor environments, or in people’s bodies.

Those that do break down relatively quickly

are released into the environment in

quantities so large that they are constantly

present. For example, an adult’s body will

metabolize 50 percent of a single dose of

phthalates in about 12 hours. Nevertheless,

Hoppin et al. (2002) found little variation

in the day-to-day concentrations of phthalate

metabolites in women’s urine apparently

because of their constant daily exposure

to phthalates.23

Many of these chemicals are also bioaccumulative:

they accumulate in the bodies

of organisms, some in fat tissues, others in

specifi c organs such as the liver and kidney.

As a result, they build up and biomagnify

in the food chain. This means that organisms

at the top of the food chain have the

highest exposure. This includes humans,

especially the developing fetus exposed in

its mother’s womb, and the nursing infant

exposed by its mother’s breastmilk.

All of these chemicals migrate, leach

out of or otherwise escape from consumer

products during normal use and most have

been reported as contaminants in indoor

air and household dust as well as in the

breastmilk, blood and other tissues of

humans. They are also known to occur in

other media such as sewage sludge, water

resources, sediments, and freshwater and

in other living creatures, such as ocean

fi sh, birds, and marine mammals.

No one can say for sure what effects

these chemicals have on human populations.

But effects noted in animal tests and

the pervasiveness of these chemicals in our

environment give us ample warning that

we must immediately substitute these chemicals.

The inherent hazards of these chemicals

may be contributing to the increase

in cancers and in some childhood diseases,

and to observed changes in fertility.

The degree to which these

trends can be linked to hazardous

chemicals exposure is not the

main issue. The real question is

why should we take chances when

safer chemicals and substitute

materials exist?

For example, it is estimated that nearly

12 million children (17%) in the United

States under age 18 suffer from one or more

learning, developmental, or behavioral

disabilities.

These are clearly the result of complex

interactions among chemical, genetic and

social-environmental factors that infl uence

children as they develop. But whatever the

combination of causes, the fact is that many

disabilities such as asthma, and attention

defi cit disorder are increasing among our

children.

Asthma is the second most prevalent

chronic condition among children. It

results in approximately 14 million days

of missed school each year. In 1980,

3.6% of children had asthma. By 1995,

the prevalence had increased to 7.5%,

or approximately 5 million children.24

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 11

Chemical Class Product Use Health Concerns

Polybrominated

diphenyl ethers

(Brominate Flame

Retardants)

PBDEs are applied to textiles or incorporated into

plastics, foams and components of electrical goods

to prevent or retard the spread of fi re. They are

found in polyurethane foam products, foam padding

in furniture, textiles, electrical appliances, televisions

and computers.

These global contaminants persist for

long periods of time in the environment,

build up in the body, mimic thyroid hormones,

and accumulate in breast milk.

US women have highest global levels of

these chemicals in breast milk.

Phthalates 80–90% of Phthalates are used in fl exible PVC

(vinyl) products such as wall coverings, fl ooring,

furniture, shower curtains, clothing, raincoats, shoes,

and toys. They are also used to make paint, medical

equipment, pesticides, and personal care products

such as perfume, nail polish, hairspray.

These global contaminants build up in

the body and disrupt the reproductive

system in animals studies, particularly

in male offspring. They are found in

higher concentrations in infertile men

and contribute to asthma and respiratory

problems in children.

Organotin

Compounds

Organotins are used primarily as heat and light

stabilizers in PVC. They are found in PVC water

pipes, PVC food packing materials, glass coatings,

polyurethane foams and many other consumer

products.

Very poisonous even in small amounts,

these can disrupt the hormone and reproductive

system and are toxic to the immune

system. Early life exposure in

animals can disrupt brain devlopment.

Alkylphenols Alkylphenols are used primarily as raw materials for

the manufacture of alkylphenol ethoxylates. Alkylphenol

ethoxylates are used as non-ionic surfactants,

emulsifi ers, lubricants or anti-oxidants in

laundry detergents, textiles, leather, paints, disinfecting

cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, spot removers,

hair-coloring, cosmetics, adhesives, some plastics

and pesticides. Nonylphenol is used as a spermicide.

These chemicals are widely recognized

to mimic natural estrogen hormones

leading to altered sexual development in

some organisms. They can affect sperm

production in mammals and may disrupt

the human immune system.

Perfl uorinated

Organics

(PFOA/PFOS)

PFOA is used to make Tefl on, Goretex, and other

oil-, water- and stain-resistant materials that are

used in many common items, including nonstick

frying pans, utensils, stove hoods, stainproofed carpets,

furniture and clothes. PFOS is thought to be

the main, fi nal degradation product of many of

the perfl uorinated chemicals released into

the environment.

These chemicals are pervasive in the

blood of the general US population and

are now global contaminants. They are

potentially carcinogenic and caused damage

to organ function and sexual development

in lab animals. It takes over four

years to excrete half the amount of this

chemical from organs and human tissue,

therefore continuous exposure adds

high concern.

Pesticides Pesticides are applied in and around homes for

controlling infestations of various insects. They are

applied to carpets, pre- and post-sale, to prevent or

retard infestations of insects and dust mites.

Pesticides are global contaminants

that can persist for long periods of time

in the environment. They can have adverse

effects on the hormone system

and be carcinogenic.

T A B L E 1

Chemicals Tested for In Dust, Their Product Use and Health Concerns

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 12

T A B L E 2

Contaminant Groups and Their Member Chemicals

Attention defi cit hyperactivity disorder

(ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed

childhood psychiatric disorder in

the United States. Recent evidence suggests

the prevalence may be as high as

17% for all school children. In effect,

the US has seen a 6-fold increase in

ADHD between the years 1985 (0.7 million

cases) and 2000 (4–5 million cases).25

The use of Ritalin, a stimulant widely

prescribed to treat hyperactivity and attention

defi cits, has increased from 2.5

times to 5 times between 1990 and 1995.

By 2000 it was estimated that 15% of

school age children, or an estimated

8 million children, use Ritalin.26

Over the last decade, there has been a

wealth of research on changes in sexual

maturation and fertility

• It has been suggested that girls in the

United States are entering puberty earlier

than the age suggested in standard

pediatric textbooks and earlier than

previous studies.27

• A 1992 study reported a 40% decline

in sperm count over the second half of

the 20th century and generated much

controversy.28 Subsequent studies show

sperm counts have decreased signifi -

cantly in some areas and held steady

in others. There are no reports of

signifi cant increases in sperm count.

Mathematically this means there has

been an overall average decline.29

The degree to which these trends can be

linked to hazardous chemicals exposure is

not the main issue. The real question is why

should we take chances? It makes no sense

to continue to use known toxic and persistent

chemicals in commerce when safer

chemicals and substitute materials exist.

Where is our country’s innovation in safe

chemical production and sustainable

product design?

Alkylphenols and alkylphenol ethoxylates

4-nonylphenol

nonylphenol monoethoxylate

nonylphenol diethoxylate

4-octylphenol

octylphenol monoethoxylate

octylphenol diethoxylate

4-tert-methylbutylphenol methylbutylphenol tert

Pesticides and related chemicals

chlorpyrifos

á-chlordane (alpha-chlordane)

ã-chlordane (gamma-chlordane)

2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane

4,4-DDT

diazinon

dicofol + 4,4’-dichlorobenzophenone

(breakdown product)

dieldrin

methoxychlor

pentachloronitrobenzene

pentachlorophenol

cis-permethrin permethrin cis

trans-permethrin permethrin trans

piperonyl butoxide

propoxur

Perfl uorinated chemicals

perfl uorooctanoic acid

perfl uorooctanyl sulfonate

Phthalate esters

dimethyl phthalate

diethyl phthalate

di-n-propyl phthalate propyl phthalate n

diisobutyl phthalate

di-n-butyl phthalate butyl phthalate n

butylbenzyl phthalate

di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate

[bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate]

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)

2,2’,4,4’-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 47)

2,2’4,4’,5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 99)

2,2’,4,4’,6-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 100)

2,2’, 4,4’, 5,5’-hexabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 153)

2,2’,4,4’5,6’-hexabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 154)

2,2’,3,4,4’,5’,6-heptabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 183)

decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 209)

Organotins

monobutyltin

dibutyltin

tributyltin

tetrabutyltin

dioctyltin

tricyclohexyltin

triphenyltin

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 13

W H A T W E F O U N D

To investigate the presence of

hazardous chemicals in common

house dust we took dust samples

from vacuum bags in ten homes

in each of seven states (California, Maine,

Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon,

and Washington) to analyze for six classes

of well known hazardous chemicals. In all

samples 44 chemicals were tested for:

• seven phthalate esters,

• seven polybrominated diphenyl ethers

(PBDEs),

• 14 pesticides (including pentachlorophenol),

• seven alkylphenol compounds,

• seven organotin compounds, and

• two perfl uorinated chemicals.

To our knowledge, the results presented

in this study for organotins and perfl uorinated

chemicals are the fi rst to be reported

for dust collected from U.S. homes.

House dust is an important indicator of

indoor semi-volatile and non-volatile contaminants.

30 It is also a very heterogeneous

material. Concentrations of chemical contaminants

in house dust can vary dramatically

from home to home, room to room,

season to season, with frequency and intensity

of cleaning, with the type of fl ooring,

etc.31,32,33,34 Consequently, it is not surprising

that the concentrations of each of the contaminant

groups and their member chemicals

varied considerably in this study, as

shown in Tables 3 and 4.

Thirty-fi ve of the 44 target chemicals

were measured in one or more of the seven

composite dust samples. In addition to

these target chemicals, it is virtually certain

that many other toxic contaminants, such

as linear alkylbenzene sulfonates,35 polyaromatic

hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals,36

dioxins,37 PCBs,38,39 etc., were present in

these samples and would have been detected

if they had been tested for in dust samples.

These chemicals have been detected in

other house dust studies.

The average contribution of each of the

six contaminant groups to the total concentration

of target contaminants in the dust

is shown in Figure 1. In each of the seven

dust samples, phthalates were highest in

concentration, followed, in descending order,

by alkylphenols, pesticides, polybrominated

diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), organotins

and perfl uorinated chemicals.

Total Concentration

µg/g, parts per million (ppm)

Contaminant Group Maximum Minimum Average

Phthalate esters 552 294 424

Alkylphenols and alkylphenol ethoxylates 51.4 14.6 26.7

Pesticides 33.9 5.7 12.6

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers 12.5 3.6 8.9

Organotins 0.911 0.388 0.631

T A B L E 3

Summary of Analytical Results by Contaminant Group, Across All Samples

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 14

Occurrence

Average

concentration

Minimum

concentration

Maximum

concentration

ìg/g, parts per million (ppm)

Phthalates

dimethyl phthalate 1/7 0.038* <rl 0.272

diethyl phthalate 7/7 1.41 0.74 3.58

di-n-propyl phthalate 0/7 <rl <rl <rl

diisobutyl phthalate 7/7 3.79 1.61 8.35

di-n-butyl phthalate 7/7 20.15 7.80 49.5

butylbenzyl phthalate 7/7 69.37 42.1 137

di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate 7/7 329.45 215 425

Alkylphenols

4-Nonylphenol 7/7 5.141 3.740 10.500

Nonylphenol monoethoxylate 7/7 7.611 3.720 14.800

Nonylphenol diethoxylate 7/7 9.890 5.850 17.900

4-Octylphenol 0/7 <rl <rl <rl

Octylphenol monoethoxylate 7/7 1.003 0.394 3.410

Octylphenol diethoxylate 7/7 1.870 0.395 8.550

4-t-methylbutylphenol 7/7 0.373 0.154 0.962

Pesticides

4,4’-DDT 7/7 0.504 0.0913 1.89

alpha-chlordane 1/7 0.020* <rl 0.138

gamma-chlordane 1/7 0.020* <rl 0.140

chlorpyrifos 1/7 0.029* <rl 0.205

diazinon 0/7 <rl <rl <rl

dicofol 0/7 <rl <rl <rl

dieldrin 1/7 0.103 <rl 0.720

methoxychlor 4/7 0.191 <rl 0.532

pentachloronitrobenzene 0/7 <rl <rl <rl

pentachlorophenol 7/7 1.246 0.0481 7.310

cis-permethrin 7/7 3.34 0.607 11.6

trans-permethrin 7/7 6.41 1.30 21.0

piperonyl butoxide 7/7 0.69 0.147 2.18

propoxur 2/7 0.037* <rl 0.13

T A B L E 4

Summary Analytical Results for Individual Contaminants in All Samples

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 15

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers

TetraBDE (BDE 47) 7/7 2.10 0.550 5.24

PentaBDE (BDE 99) 7/7 1.70 0.474 4.129

PentaBDE (BDE 100) 4/7 0.259 <rl 0.762

HexaBDE (BDE 153) 2/7 0.314 <rl 0.376

HexaBDE (BDE 154) 2/7 0.278 <rl 0.325

HeptaBDE (BDE 183) 0/7 <rl <rl <rl

DecBDE (BDE 209) 7/7 4.66 0.901 10.0

Organotins

Monobutyltin 7/7 0.2063 0.1060 0.3614

Dibutyltin 7/7 0.2493 0.1158 0.3215

Tributyltin 7/7 0.0798 0.0447 0.1931

Tetrabutyltin 0/7 <rl <rl <rl

Di-n-octyltin 7/7 0.1096 0.0717 0.1985

Tricyclohexyltin 0/7 <rl <rl <rl

Triphenyltin 0/7 <rl <rl <rl

Perfl uorinated Chemicals

Perfl uorooctanoic acid 7/7 0.0787 0.0185 0.2051

Perfl uorooctanyl sulfonate 7/7 0.4244 0.0764 1.1709

* The mean value cannot be regarded as representative with such a small number of determinations.

<rl = less than limit of quantifi cation

F I G U R E 1

Average Contribution of Each

Group of Chemical Contaminants

in the Total Concentration of

All Chemicals Tested for in Seven

Composite House dust Samples Phthalates

89.6%

Alkylphenols

5.6%

Pesticides

2.6%

Polybrominated

Diphenyl Ethers

1.9%

Organotins

0.13%

Perfluorinated

Chemicals

0.10%

Note: This graph represents only the

contributions of the six categories

of chemicals tested in this study to

the sum total concentration of all 44

chemicals detected. The percentages

are not an indication of content in

total dust quantity nor of all chemicals

potentially present in house dust.

Occurrence

Average

concentration

Minimum

concentration

Maximum

concentration

ìg/g, parts per million (ppm)

T A B L E 4

Summary Analytical Results for Individual Contaminants in All Samples CONTINUED

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 16

Phthalates

Five of the seven phthalates selected for analysis

were present at quantifi able concentrations

in all of the dust samples, as shown in

Table 3.

Phthalates are used primarily as plasticizers

for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic,

commonly known as vinyl. Most phthalates

(80–90%) are used in vinyl products from

which they continuously off-gas. On average,

DEHP accounted for 78 percent of the total

concentration of the target phthalates in

the dust samples and 69 percent of the total

concentration of the 44 contaminants.

DEHP is present in PVC (vinyl) products

such as wall coverings, tablecloths, fl oor tiles,

furniture upholstery, shower curtains, garden

hoses, swimming pool liners, rainwear,

baby pants, dolls, some toys, shoes, automobile

upholstery and tops, packaging fi lm

and sheets, sheathing for wire and cable,

medical tubing, and blood storage bags.

450

400

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

µg/g, parts per pillion (ppm)

FIGURE 2

Occurrence of Phthalates in All Dust Samples:

The Minimum and Maximum Concentrations Are Indicated by the Range Bar

di-n-propyl phthalate

diethyl phthalate

dimethyl phthalate

diisobutyl phthalate

di-n-butyl phthalate

butylbenzyl phthalate

di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate

Maximum

Mean

Minimum

PVC is neither a biological nor technical nutrient.

It is a nightmare.

Michael Braungart, Director, McDonough Braungart

Design Chemistry and EPA Green Chemistry Award Winner

quoted in Healthy Building News. March, 2005

The remaining small share of phthalates

(that not added to PVC) is used in personal

care products such as skin creams, hairsprays,

lotions, nail polish, and fragrances, and in

a variety of other products including adhesives,

caulks, detergents, electrical capacitors,

inks, solvents, lubricating oils, paints, and

pharmaceuticals.

While environmental releases of industrial

chemicals are most commonly associated

with their manufacture and disposal,

it is estimated that more than 75 percent

of phthalate releases to the environment

occurs during the use of products that

contain phthalates. DEHP releases to air

from PVC fl ooring, for example, have been

documented.

• Children exposed to household dust with

the greatest concentations of DEHP were

more likely to have asthma than children

exposed to the lowest concentrations of

that phthalate.

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 17

700

600

500

400

300

200

100

0

micrograms/gram (ug/g),

parts per million (ppm)

FIGURE 3

Phthalates — Mean Concentrations of Target Pthalates in House Dust

in this study and those reported by Al Bitar (2004), Costner et al. (2004),

Rudel et al. (2003), and Santillo et al. (2003)

Mean, 7

samples

Belgium Brazil Cape Cod,

MA

UK

di(2-ethylhexyl)

phthalate

butylbenzyl

di-n-butyl phthalate

diisobutyl phthalate

di-n-propyl phthalate

diethyl phthalate

dimethyl phthalate

• Exposure to phthalates has also been

associated with premature breast development

in female children. A study on

premature breast development in female

children aged 6 months to 8 years found

phthalate esters in 68% of serum samples

from the patients.

• Phthalates have also been linked to deteriorated

semen quality, low sperm counts,

and poor sperm morphology in men. In

a study, concentration of phthalate esters

was signifi cantly higher in

infertile men compared with

controls. Phthalates may be

instrumental in the deterioration

of semen quality in

infertile men.

• Animal studies have found

that phthalates pass from

the mother through the

placenta to the fetus, and

through breastmilk to the

newborn.

For a summary of occurrence

and more detailed information

and referenced discussion on

health effects, see Appendix I.

30

25

20

15

10

5

0

micrograms/gram (ug/g),

parts per million (ppm)

FIGURE 4

Alkylphenols and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates — Mean Concentrations

of Target Compounds in House Dust in this study and those reported

by Rudel et al. (2003)

Mean

7 Samples

Cape Cod,

MA

4-t-mehylbutylphenol

Octylphenol

diethoxylate

Octylphenol

monoethoxylate

4-Octylphenol

Nonylphenol

diethoxylate

Nonylphenol

monoethoxylate

4-Nonylphenol

Alkylphenols

All seven alkylphenols and alkylphenol ethoxylates

selected for analysis were detected

in all samples. A summary of occurrence

and effects is given below.

Alkylphenols (APs) are used primarily as

raw materials for the manufacture of alkylphenol

ethoxylates (APEs).

The major uses of APEs are as industrial

and institutional cleaning products and household

cleaning products. They are also used

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 18

in paper and pulp production and de-inking

agents in paper recycling; emulsifying agents

in latex paints, pesticide and herbicide formulations,

and fi berglass and polystyrene

products; as additives in cosmetics and in

polyvinyl chloride used for food packaging;

fl otation agents, industrial cleaners, cold

cleaners for cars, and in the textile industry.

Nonylphenol (NP) is the active ingredient

in spermicides and NP or a derivative is also

apparently used in food wrapping fi lms, foodcontacting

plastics, and some toys, because

the chemical has been found to leach from

these materials and products.

Nonylphenol is regarded as a ubiquitous

environmental contaminant. Nonylphenol

has also been detected in umbilical cords in

Japan confi rming that this chemical is

passed from the mother to the developing

fetus through the placenta. A very recent

study in Germany has found nonylphenol

in breastmilk confi rming that this chemical

also passes from mother to nursing infant.

• The most widely recognized hazard associated

with alkylphenols is their ability to

mimic natural estrogen hormones. The

estrogenicity of alkylphenols has been

known for years. As estrogenic compounds,

alkylphenols have been shown

to reduce testicular function in rats potentially

leading to altered sexual development.

This may have implications for

other organisms as well.

• Preliminary studies suggest that nonylphenol

may also disrupt the human

immune system.

For a more detailed and referenced discussion

see Appendix I.

We have now acqired a fateful power to alter and

destroy nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war

against nature is inevitably a war against himself.

Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, who fi rst raised

awareness of the toxicity and persistence of DDT pesticides,

quoted on CBS News, 1964

Pesticides

This group of target chemicals included

eleven pesticides and one synergist (piperonyl

butoxide). Each of the dust samples

contained quantifi able concentrations of

fi ve compounds: 4,4’-DDT, pentachlorophenol,

cis-permethrin, trans-permethrin, and

piperonyl butoxide. A summary of occurrence

and effects is given below. For a

more detailed and referenced discussion

see Appendix I.

Permethrin

Permethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid, is used

to kill pest insects in agriculture, home pest

control, forestry, and in public health programs,

including head lice control. It was

fi rst marketed in 1973. Worldwide, the dominant

use of permethrin is on cotton, accounting

for about 60 percent (by weight)

of the permethrin used. In the U.S., almost

70 percent of the permethrin used in agriculture

is used on corn, wheat, and alfalfa

It is widely used in U.S. homes, yards and

gardens. Permethrin, like all synthetic pyreS

A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 19

30

25

20

15

10

5

0

micrograms/gram (ug/g), parts per million (ppm)

FIGURE 5

Pesticides — Mean Concentrations of Targeted Pesticides in House

Dust in this study and those reported by Rudel et al. (2003)

Mean

7 Samples

Cape Cod,

MA

piperonyl butoxide

trans-permethrin

cis-permethrin

pentachlorophenol

pentachloronitrobenzane

methoxychlor

dieldrin

dicofol

diazinon

chlorpyrifos

gamma-chlordane

throids, kills insects by strongly exciting

their nervous systems.

Because of its ubiquitous use, the Food

and Drug Administration’s monitoring program

routinely fi nds permethrin on food.

In 2001, it was the 8th most commonly detected

pesticide with DDT being number 1,

despite DDT being banned in 1972.

• The immune system appears to be a sensitive

target for permethrin activity.

• Permethrin also affects both male and

female reproductive systems.

• According to the EPA, permethrin is a

possible human carcinogen. The EPA

found that permethrin increased the frequency

of lung tumors in female mice,

and increased the frequency of liver tumors

in male and female mice.

Piperonyl butoxide

Piperonyl butoxide is used in formulations

of permethrin, other pyrethrins and pyrethroids

as a synergist to increase the effectiveness

of the insecticides. As such, it is

sometimes relied upon as an indicator of

the presence of permethrin and other pyrethroids.

It does not, by itself have pesticidal

properties. However, when added to insecticide

mixtures their potency is increased

considerably

• The US EPA has classifi ed piperonyl butoxide

as a possible human carcinogen.

Pentachlorophenol

In the U.S., most exposure to pentachlorophenol

(PCP) comes from its past use on

treated wood and soil. From 1987 to 1993,

the EPA recorded releases of PCP to land

and water, mostly from treated wood and

military munitions factories, totaling nearly

100,000 pounds. PCP has been limited since

1984 to use by certifi ed applicators for certain

purposes. It is still used as a preservative

on wooden utility poles, railroad ties and

wharf pilings. It is also still used in California,

mostly on almonds and structural

pest control.

In 2001, DDT was

the most commonly

detected pesticide

on food despite being

banned in 1972.

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 20

• The EPA has determined that pentachlorophenol

is a probable human carcinogen

and the International Agency for Cancer

Research classifi es it as possibly carcinogenic

to humans.

DDT

DDT is no longer registered for use in the

United States. However, it is still used in

other (primarily tropical) countries for malaria

control. It is classifi ed in EPA’s Toxicity

Class II, moderately toxic. DDT was banned

from use in the United States in 1972, and

remains banned barring public health

emergency (e.g., outbreak of malaria).

Because of its ubiquitous past use, the

Food and Drug Administration’s monitoring

program routinely fi nds DDT on food.

In 2001, it was the most commonly detected

pesticide. In a recent body burden study by

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

(CDC), scientists found DDT in blood

of 99% of those sampled—the highest incidence

of any pesticide sampled.

Of the quantity of the pesticide used in

1970–72, over 80 percent was applied to cotton

crops, with the remainder being used

predominantly on peanut and soybean

crops. The decline in DDT usage was the

result of increased insect resistance; the development

of more effective alternative pesticides;

and growing public concern over

adverse environmental side effects. DDT is

not metabolized very rapidly by animals; it

is deposited and stored in the fatty tissues.

The biological half-life of DDT is about eight

years and is still a ubiquitous contaminant.

• DDT and its breakdown products are

considered hormone disruptors.

• The Centers for Disease Control have

reported a relation between DDT and

the likelihood of preterm birth.

Polybrominated

Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

Three of the seven PBDEs that were selected

for analysis—BDE 47, BDE 99, and BDE

209—were present at quantifi able concentrations

in all dust samples. As shown in

Figures 6 and 7, the decabrominated diphenyl

ether, BDE 209, predominated in our

samples and had the highest mean concentration,

followed by BDE 47 and BDE 99.

On average, these three PBDEs accounted

for 95 percent of the total concentration

of this contaminant group. A summary of

occurrence and effects is given below. For

a more detailed and referenced discussion

see Appendix I.

More than 70 brominated chemicals

or groups of chemicals are used as fl ame

retardants in plastics, textiles and other

materials. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers

(PBDEs) are one of the three groups that

dominate the market for fl ame retardants.

PBDEs are applied to or incorporated into

many common household products, such as

furniture, carpeting, mattresses, televisions,

coffee makers and hair dryers. Decabromodiphenyl

ether (Deca-BDE or BDE 209) is

most commonly used in plastics and textiles,

Of the quantity

of DDT used in

1970–72, over

80 percent

was applied to

cotton crops.

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 21

BDE 99

(a pentaBDE)

19%

BDE 47

(a tetraBDE)

24%

BDE 100

(a pentaBDE)

3%

BDE 153

(a hexaBDE)

1%

BDE 154

(a hexaBDE)

1%

BDE 209

(DecaBDE)

52%

12

10

8

6

4

2

0

micrograms/gram (ug/g),

parts per million (ppm)

FIGURE 7

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers — Mean Concentrations of Target PBDEs

in House Dust in this study and those reported by Al Bitar (2004), Rudel et al.

(2003), Santillo et al. (2003), and Stapleton et al. (2005)

Mean,

7 samples

Belgium Cape Cod,

MA

UK Washington,

D.C.

DecaBDE (BDE 209)

HeptaBDE (BDE 183)

HexaBDE (BDE 154)

HexaBDE (BDE 153)

PentaBDE (BDE 100)

PentaBDE (BDE 99)

TetraBDE (BDE 47)

F I G U R E 6

Contributions of Individual PBDEs to

Total PBDE Concentration, Across All Samples

in electrical components and in styrene

rubbers used in carpet backing and furniture.

Sunlight and UV light can degrade

BDE 209 to form less brominated BDEs,

such as the pentabromodiphenyl ethers

(penta-BDEs).

PBDEs have been found in air, water,

fi sh, birds, marine mammals, and humans

In many cases, their concentrations are increasing

over time. Diet is regarded as the

most likely route of PBDE exposure for the

general population. However, air inside

homes and offi ces can carry PBDE concentrations

that are estimated to be almost ten

times higher than levels in the air outside

the buildings. Moreover, house dust has

been identifi ed as an important pathway

of PBDE exposure for young children.

Studies of breast milk in the U.S. have

found PBDE concentrations from 10 to more

than 100 times higher than those in Europe.

Moreover, contrary to claims by PBDE

producers that BDE 209 (deca) is neither

mobile nor bioavailable, recent studies have

identifi ed BDE 209 in 20 to 80 percent of

breast milk samples. A recent study indicates

that PBDEs in Swedish breast milk began to

decrease in 1997, possibly due to a voluntary

phase-out of penta-BDE. BDE 209 has also

been identifi ed as the dominant PBDE in

several U.S. food groups.

• In studies with laboratory animals, mice

and rats exposed to one or more PBDEs

have shown a wide variety of effects including

evidence of hormone disruption,

reproductive/developmental toxicity including

neurotoxicity, and cancer.

• Common metabolites of the PBDEs are

reported to compete strongly with the

thyroid hormone, thyroxin, raising the

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 22

potential for a broad range of effects on

growth and development, including permanent

neurobehavioral impacts, comparable

to the thyroid disrupting effects

of PCBs.

• Laboratory animals exposed to PBDEs

during the period immediately before or

after birth exhibited behavioral changes

when they reached adulthood. These

changes included marked hyperactivity

and learning and memory defi cits

• During exposure in newborn mice

PBDEs, including BDE 209, have been

shown to distribute throughout the body

and concentrate in the brain. They induce

developmental neurotoxic effects

in adult mice that worsen with age and

lead to abnormal behaviour.

At pharmacologic levels, butyltins might

contribute to the onset of developmental disorders

of the male reproductive system.

Doering at al. (2002)

Organotins

Of the seven organotins analyzed, four

were quantifi ed in all samples: monobutyltin,

dibutyltin, tributyltin, and di-n-octyltin.

To our knowledge this is the fi rst study to

analyze for organotins in household dust

in the US. A summary of occurrence and

effects is given below. For a more detailed

and referenced discussion see Appendix I.

Major use of organotins began some 40

years ago in parallel with mass production

nanograms/gram (ng/g),

parts per billion (ppb)

FIGURE 8

Organotins — Mean Concentrations of Target Organotins in House Dust

Samples from this study and those reported by Al Bitar (2004), Costner et al.

(2004), and Fromme et al. (2005)

Triphenyltin

Tricyclohexyltin

Di-n-octyltin

Tributyltin

Dibutyltin

Monobutyltin

2500

2000

1500

1000

500

0

Mean,

7 samples

Belgium Brazil Germany

of PVC plastic (vinyl). Between 1955 and

1992, organotin production increased by

a factor of ten and reached about 40,000

metric tons per year in 1996. Mono- and

dialkyltins account for 81 percent of total

organotin use: 76 percent used as heat and

light stabilizers for PVC and 5 percent as

catalysts for polyurethane and silicone elastomers.

The remaining organotin uses consist

mainly of tributyl-, triphenyl- and tricyclohexyltin,

about 10 percent of which is

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 23

used as antifouling biocides, and 8 percent

as pesticides.

Organotins are found in PVC water pipes,

PVC food packing materials, glass coatings

and polyurethane foams. Other uses, mainly

of butyltin, include rigid PVC profi les and

sidings, venetian blinds, rain gutters, window

profi les and, in particular in the U.S.,

building sidings. Organotins also occur in

textile products that contain polymer parts,

such as t-shirts with prints, sanitary napkins,

bandaids and diapers. They are used as fungicides

on textiles that are exposed to extreme

conditions such as canvas.

Organotins were found in 50 percent

of ordinary plastic products purchased in a

Japanese supermarket—diaper covers, sanitary

napkins, polyurethane gloves, cellophane

wrap, dishwashing sponges and baking parchments.

Organotins were also found in the

cookies baked on the parchment. Another

study in Japan found organotins in children’s

PVC toys—face masks, balls, soft toys and

food toys. Organotins have also been detected

in drinking water transported through

PVC pipes. Elevated levels of organotins,

particularly tributyltin, have also been

found in PVC fl ooring and, at somewhat

lower concentrations, in carpets.

Organotins are found widely in the environment.

They have been detected in air

and precipitation, freshwater resources,

ocean water, soils and sediments. Organotins,

particularly tributyltin (TBT), have

been identifi ed in many species including

mollusks, fi sh, marine and freshwater birds,

marine mammals,as well as various terrestrial

mammals.

• Organotins are toxic at relatively low

levels of exposure and fi ndings suggest

that chronic, low-level exposure to dibutyltins

(DBT) in human populations may

have toxic impacts on both the immune

and nervous systems. At lower doses, triphenyltins

(TPT) exposure during pregnancy

resulted in behavioral changes in

the offspring.

• Tributyltins (TBT) and triphenyltins

(TPT) are all listed as poisons and described

as respiratory toxins, fetotoxins,

reproductive toxins, immunotoxins, possible

carcinogens, skin and respiratory

irritants, and allergens.

• Organotins are known to damage the

immune system in mammals. They are

transported through the placenta, as

demonstrated by their adverse developmental

effects

• In a 1999 study, organotins were tested

in the blood of people living in Michigan:

monobutyltin (MBT) was present in 53

percent of the samples; dibutyltin (DBT),

81 percent; and tributyltin (TBT), 70

percent.

• DBT is neurotoxic to mammalian brain

cells and has been shown to cause toxic

effects on the immune system at concentrations

comparable to those reported in

human blood. DBT had neurotoxic effects

at levels that were lower than those

reported in human blood and some forty

times lower than the lowest toxic concentration

of trimeth-yltin, a known neurotoxicant.

Organotins are found in PVC water pipes, PVC food packing

materials, glass coatings and polyurethane foams.

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 24

Perfl uorinated Chemicals

(PFOS and PFOA)

All dust samples contained quantifi able

concentrations of the two target perfl uorinated

chemicals—perfl uorooctanoic acid

(PFOA) and perfl uorooctanyl sulfonate

(PFOS). PFOS concentrations were highest

in all samples, with a mean of 424 ppm and

a range of 76.4 to 1,170 ppm, while the mean

concentration of PFOA was 78.7 ppm with

a range of 18.5 to 205 ppm. To our knowl-

600

500

400

300

200

100

0

nanograms/gram (ng/g), parts per billion (ppb)

FIGURE 9

Perfluorinated Chemicals — Mean concentrations of

Perfluorooctanyl Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluoroctanoic

Acid (PFOA) in House Dust in this study and those

reported by Moriwaki et al. (2003)

Mean

7 Samples

Japan

PFOS

PFOA

PFOA is detectable in the blood of most humans

and animals worldwide, which is problematic because

it is only slowly eliminated in mammals, is potentially

toxic, has no known metabolic or environmental degradation

pathway, and is potentially carcinogenic.

Ellis et al. 2005

edge this is the fi rst study to detect PFOA

and PFOS in household dust in the US. A

summary of occurrence and effects is given

below. For a more detailed and referenced

discussion see Appendix I.

The two perfl uorinated chemicals (PFCs)

that were selected for analysis in our study

are only two of the already quite large and

still growing number of perfl uorinated chemicals

(PFCs) that are manufactured and/or

found in the environment. PFOA is the bestknown

of the PFCs because it is used to make

Tefl on, Goretex, and other oil-, water- and

stain-resistant materials that are used in

many common items, including nonstick

frying pans, utensils, stove hoods, stainproofed

carpets, furniture, and clothes.

PFOA and PFOS may also be formed as

products of the degradation of other PFCs.

Polytetrafl uoroethylene (PTFE) also

known as polyvinyl fl uoride, is commonly is commonly uoride

marketed as Tefl on. This use accounted

for 60–65 percent of all fl uoropolymer

consumption in the US., Western Europe

and Japan in 2001.

These chemicals are used in soil, stain,

grease, and water-resistant coatings for textiles,

carpet, cookware and automobiles.

PFOA is also used widely in fi re-fi ghting

foams. PFOS has been used in refrigerants,

surfactants, polymers, pharmaceuticals, fl ame

retardants, lubricants, adhesives, cosmetics,

paper coatings, and insecticides. The U.S.

manufacturer, 3M, discontinued PFOS

production in 2000.

PFCs are pervasive contaminants in the

global environment. PFOS and other PFCs

are found in freshwater and marine mammals,

fi sh, birds, shellfi sh, and domestic

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 25

cattle. Although contamination is global,

including remote locations in the Arctic

and North Pacifi c Oceans, concentrations

of PFCs are relatively greater in or near the

more populated and industrial regions.

• A number of studies have found PFCs to

be pervasive contaminants in the blood

of the general population of the U.S.

• It was known as early as 1975 that fumes

from hot pans coated with Tefl on (polytetrafl

uoroethylene (PTFE) can kill

pet birds. Broiler chicks have died after

exposure to polytetrafl uoroethylenecoated

light bulbs.

• Exposed to PFOS, female rats showed

loss of appetite, interrupted estrus cycles,

and elevated stress hormone levels. PFOS

was found to accumulate in brain tissue,

particularly the hypothalamus, suggesting

that PFOS crosses the blood-brain

barrier and may interfere with reproductive

hormones.

• One recent review noted that studies in

monkeys, rats, fi sh and humans have

found that subchronic exposure to PFOS

led to signifi cant weight loss, reduced

serum cholesterol, and reduced thyroid

hormones.

• In rats, rabbits and mice, developmental

effects of exposure to PFCs include reduced

fetal weight, cleft palate, delayed

ossifi cation of bones and cardiac abnormalities.

• Recent laboratory studies with PFOA involving

rats have shown low birth weight,

small pituitary gland, altered maternal

care behavior, high pup mortality, and

signifi cant changes in the brain, liver,

spleen, thymus, adrenal gland, kidney,

prostate, and testes.

Breastfeeding Is Still Best for Baby

Breastmilk is one of the most important

contributors to infant health.

—US Surgeon General

While many of the chemicals we found in house dust

have also been detected in human breast milk, this should

not discourage mothers from

breastfeeding.

Breast milk is a good indicator

of the chemicals the fetus

is exposed to during pregnancy.

Because of the high

fat content of breast milk,

some chemicals can be more

easily detected in breast milk

than in blood. PBDEs, for example

are fat-loving chemicals

that would require a much

larger quantity of blood than

breast milk to obtain an accurate measurement.

Most doctors agree that the benefi ts of breastfeeding

are crucial to the developing infant. Breast milk is the

best nutrition for infants. It also provides important

hormones, protective immune factors, and promoters

for the development of the brain and nervous system.

Breastfeeding also reduces the incidence of anemia

and some gynecologic cancers in women, including

premenopausal breast cancer.

Formula feeding does not eliminate children’s exposure

to toxic chemicals. Children are exposed to signifi cant

levels of chemicals, regardless of whether they are breastfed,

through food, the household environment, and from

contaminants that cross the placenta while a fetus is

still developing.

Exposures to chemicals during pregnancy generate

more concerns than have exposures through breastfeeding.

Chemical exposures before birth have been shown

to have adverse health effects, but common exposures

through breastfeeding have not been shown to cause

harm.

For more information, see Why breastfeeding is best

for babies?

by Physicians for Social Responsibility by Physicians for Social Responsibility http://psr.igc.org/BFeasyeng2pg.10.18.pdf.

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 26

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 27

W H Y O U R R E G U L A T O R Y S Y S T E M I S F A I L I N G U S

...it seems to me that if you wait until all the frogs

and toads have croaked their last to take some action,

you’ve missed the point...

One Frog Can Make a Difference—Kermit’s Guide to Life in the 90’s

R.P. Riger, Jim Henson Productions Inc. 1993

The previous sections have documented

the inherent hazards of

six widely used chemical classes.

Most of these chemicals are still

used in products today. Even those that have

been restricted, such as DDT, will remain in

the environment for decades to come due

to their persistence and bioaccumulation.

But what about the known hazardous chemicals

that are legally allowed to be used in

everyday products and that end up in our

air, water, food, household dust, and bodies?

Why are manufacturers putting toxic

chemicals in and on the products they sell

for household and personal use when, sooner

or later, those chemicals can become household

contaminants that threaten the health

of their customers? And why do hazardous

chemicals continue to be used in products

when safer, feasible alternatives exist?

Surveys show that most people believe

that chemicals contained in the products

they buy every day have been tested and

shown to be safe or government would not

allow them to be sold.40 Unfortunately, the

reality is far from this perception.

The problem rests in our current chemical

regulatory system—the high burdens it

places on government agencies to take action

to protect health as well as the lack of incentives

to develop safer chemicals and

products.

How did this situation arise and why is

our government doing nothing to rectify

this worrying state of affairs? The growth

of the chemical industry after World War II

saw the proliferation of a wide range of synthetic

chemicals, which were, for the most

part, unregulated.

It was only in the late 1970s that the

federal government enacted the Toxics Substance

Control Act (TSCA) to regulate industrial

chemicals used in commerce. The

law provided authority

to the U.S. EPA to

require health and

use data on chemicals

in commerce, to review

applications for

new chemicals coming

on to the market,

and to control chemicals

that may be dangerous

to health or

the environment. Unfortunately, those

chemicals that were on the market prior to

1979—amounting to more than 99% by volume

of the chemicals on the market today

—were considered automatically “registered”

and reviewed—in other words, safe until

proven dangerous. For the EPA to restrict

one of these chemicals (all of the industrial

chemicals reviewed in this report were on

the market prior to 1979), the EPA must

demonstrate that there is a signifi cant risk

to health, that the benefi ts of regulation

(for health) outweigh the costs to industry,

and that they are chosing the least burdensome

form of regulation to meet a goal.

When the EPA tried to severly restrict

the sale of asbestos in 1990, after ten years

of research, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

struck down EPA’s regulation stating that

they had not reached the threshold for

Surveys show that most people

believe that chemicals contained in

the products they buy every day have

been tested and shown to be safe or

government would not allow them

to be sold. Unfortunately, the reality

is far from this perception.

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 28

requiring a phase-out of this known toxic

material. Because of these burdens, it is

nearly impossible for the EPA to restrict

chemicals on the market. As such, the EPA

has restricted fewer than 10 chemicals in

25 years.

Even data collection activities for existing

chemicals have been limited. In 1998, the

U.S. EPA published a report demonstrating

analyses in Europe have shown a severe lack

of information on chemical use and toxicity

throughout product supply chains, such

that chemical manufacturers may not even

know how their chemicals are being used.

For new chemicals coming on the market

since 1979, companies must complete

a “pre-manufacture notifi cation” including

information on the chemical and any toxicological,

use, or exposure information that

may be available. The EPA has an opportunity

to review this information at the premanufacture

stage (before any marketing

has occurred). This pre-manufacture review

allows the EPA to raise concerns about chemicals

before they are produced and funds

spent on marketing and manufacturing. However,

because no actual testing is required

for new chemicals, the EPA is often required

to review these chemicals on the basis of

computer models. And because no additional

testing is required of new chemicals

as their production is initiated and increased,

once those new chemicals reach the market,

EPA’s power to regulate them is greatly

diminished.

A similar situation exists in pesticide regulation.

American and international agencies

have established maximum exposure

levels, above which they recognize signifi cant

cause for concern about increased risk of

both cancer and non-cancer effects. While

there are some differences in the thresholds

established by different health and environmental

agencies, the levels of exposure triggering

concern are generally extremely low.

These “acceptable” levels are not necessarily

safe because they are determined in

toxicity tests that consider only single chemicals.

In the real world, we are exposed to

a multitude of chemicals simultaneously.

In fact, most pesticides are sold as mixtures.

Thus, toxicity studies of the effects of individual

chemicals on laboratory animals can

never be truly representative of actual exposures.

In addition, many studies do not take

into account special periods of vulnerability

such as childhood or pregnancy, where a

single, very low dose of a chemical at a certain

time could cause permanent damage

to the fetus or developing child.41

that over 93% of high production volume

chemicals (those produced over one million

pounds per year) lacked some basic screening

level health data. As a result of this report

and another by the Environmental Defense

Fund, the chemical industry

entered into a voluntary

initiative, called

the High Production

Volume Chemical Challenge.

This effort will

provide substantial basic

toxicological data for a

large percentage of the

2800 chemicals produced

over one million pounds per year. Nonetheless,

the data being collected by industry does

not address many health effects of concern.

The voluntary program does not cover the

more than 6,000 chemicals currently used

annually in quantities between 10,000

and 1 million pounds.

Further, it does not include exposure

data and information on how chemicals are

used throughout supply chains, which is

critical for prevention efforts. Industry

The lack of power to

regulate existing chemicals

provides a strong

disincentive for manufacturers

to develop

safer chemicals.

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 29

Alaska

The Anchorage School District bans the use

of pesticides linked to health or environmental

damage

California

Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE to be banned.

PROP 65 demands labeling of CMRs for consumer

products. Banned pharmaceutical

uses of lindane. At least fi ve school districts

in CA ban the use of pesticides linked to

health or environmental damage.

Colorado

The Boulder Valley School District bans the

use of pesticides linked to health or environmental

damage.

Hawaii

Legislation banning PBDEs

Illinois

Pending legislation to ban pharmaceutical

uses of lindane

Maine

Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE banned as

of 2006. Deca-BDE banned as of 2008.

Mercury is banned.

Massachusetts

Pending legislation to fi nd safer alternatives

for ten hazardous chemicals, including PBDEs,

DEHP, and some pesticides. Pending

legislation to mandate the use of safer

cleaning products in many public buildings.

Legislation to require comprehensive toxics

use reduction for large user segments. Boston

passed a dioxin free purchasing resolution

to avoid PVC use. MA state law bans

the use in schools or daycares of pesticides

that are considered known, likely, or probable

carcinogens, inert ingredients with toxicological

concerns, or any products used for

purely aesthetic reasons. The law also

limits use of pesticides indoors.

Michigan

Legislation banning Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE

by 2006. Stakeholder Task Force on all Deca-

BDE. PBDEs and mercury guidelines in state

purchasing contracts.

Minnesota

Pending legislation to ban the herbicide

atrazine

New York

Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE to be banned by

2006. Deca-BDE phase out for review. Pending

legislation to ban pharmaceutical uses

of the pesticide, lindane. PVC fl ooring is excluded

as an eligible material for the state

green building tax due to its release of harmful

chemicals throughout its life cycle. NY’s

second largest city, Buffalo, passed a PBT-free

purchasing resolution. At least fi ve school

districts, including NYC, have adopted policies

that limit the use of pesticides for

aesthetic purposes or ban some highly

toxic pesticide categories.

Oregon

Pending legislation in the 2005 Oregon

Legislature to phase out the sale of products

containing brominated fl ame retardants.

Oregon’s most populous county, Multnomah

County, adopted the precautionary principle

in 2004 to help reduce the use of toxic substances.

Executive Order to achieve zero

discharge of persistent chemicals by 2020.

The Portland schools do not allow the use

of known or likely carcinogens.

Washington

Executive order to phase out PBTs prioritizing

25 high priority chemicals. Legislation pending

to ban all PBDEs as part of the PBT Executive

Order. Seattle passed a PBT-free purchasing

resolution. Passed mercury reduction

legislation. Six school districts and four cities

in WA ban the use of pesticides linked to

health or environmental impacts.

T A B L E 5

States Move to Protect Public Health and the Environment

in the Absence of Federal Governance Leadership

Note: CMRs refer to carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxics. PBTs refer to persistent,

bioacummulative and toxic substances.

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 30

The lack of power to regulate existing

chemicals provides a strong disincentive for

manufacturers to develop safer chemicals.

While the EPA has developed some innovative

initiatives in Green Chemistry, Design

for Environment, and pollution prevention,

these are generally small, underfunded, and

marginal to the EPA’s toxics program. In

agriculture, a similar

situation exists. Last

year, the US Department

of Agriculture

awarded $4.5 million

in research

grants for the Integrated

Organic Program

but investment

on organic R&D and

promotion equals

0.1 percent of total

federal agriculture

grants.42 In essence,

our regulations fail

to promote sustainability

and innovation.

Currently, the

Senate is examining

the Green Chemistry

Research and Development

Act which

would increase federal

research and

development into

this science. This

Act was proposed by

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and is supported

by the American Chemical Society. Such initiatives

are indeed welcome but they must

be part of a comprehensive overhaul of the

current Toxic Substance Control Act to

make the goal of safe chemicals production

the core mission of chemical management.

For chemicals regulation to be effective,

the EPA needs the authority to collect and

act on accumulating information , including

an ability to require safer substitutes for

chemicals that are of high concern. As the

regulations currently exist this is virtually

impossible to do because the burden of

proof is put on the regulators to prove harm

rather than for the chemical industry to

demonstrate that they have adequately examined

a full range of potential risks and

shown the chemical can be used safely.

Our chemical management in the U.S.

needs a modern and effective overhaul to

urgently fi ll the data gaps, act on early warnings

to substitute chemicals and chemical

classes of high concern, and promote innovation

in green chemistry and safe chemical

use by companies.

In the absence of a federal overhaul of

chemical policy, and faced with a lack of

chemical industry accountability and weak

federal regulatory powers, some state governments

are taking action. These actions

include procurement guidelines for products

free of persistent, bioaccumulative or

toxic chemicals; hazardous chemical phaseout

programs; toxic use reduction planning

requirements; and labeling requirements

such as California’s Proposition 65. The

U.S. Federal Government must respect the

right of states to enact strong laws to protect

their citizens from dangerous chemicals.

These approaches are building momentum

for national reform. It is essential that

states continue to develop policies that

target inherently hazardous chemicals for

substitution along with an aggressive program

to work with downstream chemical

users to fi nd and implement safer substitute

materials. This applies not only to industrial

chemical use but to agricultural uses as well.

Currently, the Senate is examining

the Green Chemistry Research

and Development Act which would

increase federal research and

development into this science.

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 31

At the World Summit for Sustain- t the World Summit for Sustain- Aable Development, the global able Development, the global Acommunity including the United Acommunity including the United States adopted the “Generational States adopted the “Generational Goal” to guide chemical policy development

and protect public health. This is an evolution

of European policy which in 1995 stated

the goal of preventing pollution to the North

Sea “… by continuously reducing discharges,

emissions, and losses of hazardous substances

thereby moving towards the target

of their cessation within one generation (25

years) with the ultimate aim of concentrations

in the environment near background

values for naturally occurring substances

and close to zero concentrations of manmade

synthetic substances.”

Increasing recognition that hazardous

chemicals were migrating out of products,

that waste was becoming increasingly toxic,

that large data gaps existed for the bulk of

chemicals in commerce, and that regulatory

powers to substitute chemicals were limited

forced the European Union to examine its

chemical regulatory system. Europe, home

to the largest chemical market in the world,

faced a situation whereby 70% of the chemicals

that have been evaluated under the

new chemicals program since 1981 have

one or more dangerous properties.43

Even though the Europe Union had

restricted a variety of hazardous chemicals

from production and use, the community

and experts realized that a chemical by chemical

approach took too long and could

E U R O P E ’ S N E W C H E M I C A L P O L I C Y : R E A C H

At the very least, we recommend that where synthetic chemicals

are found in elevated concentrations in biological fl uids

such as breast milk and tissues of humans, marine mammals

or top predators, regulatory steps be taken to remove them

from the market immediately.

Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, UK—Chemicals in Products, 2003

• Known and probable carcinogens, mutagens

and reproductive toxicants and preparations

containing them.

• Mercury in electronics

• Lead in electronics

Phthalate Esters in small toys

• Cadmium

• Hexavalent Chromium in electronics

• Nickel in jewelry

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers

• Polybrominated biphenyls in textiles and electronics

• Copper chromate arsenic

Tributyl tin

• Azo dyes in textiles

Pentachlorophenol

• Creosote

• Organostannic compounds

• Trichloroethane

• Hexachloroethane

• Tetrachloroethane

• Short chain chlorinated parrafi n

Chemicals Currently Restricted or Banned

in the European Union Market

Source: Integrated Chemicals Policy, Lowell Center for Sustainable

Production, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Note: text in bold denotes chemicals analyzed for and found in dust

never adequately address the thousands of

chemicals that needed to be investigated.

This provided added incentive to re-think

its chemical management program and

focus it to create better safe guards for

public health.

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 32

Europe’s new draft chemicals management

program, entitled REACH, is set for

enactment in 2006 or 2007. This far-reaching

policy would require the Registration,

Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals

(REACH) to close the large loophole in information

and regulate chemicals of high

concern.

In effect, REACH would require that industry

publicly provide basic health, safety

and environmental impact data for over

30,000 high volume chemicals—many of

Toxic Substances Control Act Proposed Regulations in REACH

TSCA is based on proving harm before acting—

the burden of proof rests on the government to

demonstrate that a chemical “will present an

unreasonable risk” before the EPA can limit the

use of particular chemical.

REACH is based on a precautionary approach—

industry has the burden of testing and assuring safety

of all the chemicals they use. Governments can

severely restrict substances based on their inherent

dangers and adequate evidence of harm.

The EPA only regulates chemicals put on the

market since 1981—this amounts to less than

1% by volume of chemicals on the market.

REACH does not differentiate between new and

existing chemicals—all chemicals produced in

amounts greater than one ton will be regulated

(estimated 30,000 chemicals). This levels the playing

fi eld between old and new chemicals.

TSCA only requires that manufacturers submit

available toxicity data and registration for new

chemicals and even then can only require

testing when the agency believes the chemical

might be problematic.

REACH requires basic human and environmental

toxicity information for all new and existing chemicals.

In effect, it forces the chemical industry to be

accountable for all their product lines manufactured

prior to the 1980s and still in commerce today.

Under TSCA it is very diffi cult for the EPA to

restrict the use of existing chemicals that are

highly toxic and found to be linked to cancer,

reproductive problems and/or persisting and

accumulating in the environment and human

bodies (the EPA has restricted less than 10

chemicals in the past 25 years).

REACH will require authorization for the use of

inherently harmful materials, which include chemicals

that are known or probable carcinogens, reproductive

toxins, mutagens as well as chemicals that persist

and accumulative in the environment and our bodies

and endocrine disrupting chemicals. The use of these

materials will be restricted and the list will be publicly

available.

TSCA allows large quantities of chemicals to be

used in everyday products without any health or

ecological data.

REACH does not allow chemicals* to be put on the

market unless data is provided (no data, no market).

TSCA is fully paid for by taxpayer dollars. Industry will partly pay for REACH through registration

fees.

*Carcinogenic (cancer causing), Mutagenic (causes mutations in cells), Reproductive Toxin (linked to birth defects), Persistent

(resists breakdown), Bioaccumulative (magnifi es up the food chain), Teratogenic (linked to birth defects), Endocrine Disruptor

(disrupts the hormonal system)

which are widely used in everyday consumer

products. Those chemicals which are demonstrated

to be of high concern would need

to get authorization (like regulation for

drugs) in order to be produced and used.

Authorization would only occur if strict controls,

and proof of socio-economic need

could be demonstrated. Many believe the

rigorous procedure of getting a chemical

authorized would, in fact, lead to the search

for safer substitutes. Others, such as the

Nordic countries and some companies,

T A B L E 6

A Comparison of the US versus Proposed New European Chemicals Regulation

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 33

are lobbying hard to have any authorized

chemical the focus of immediate substitution

with safer chemicals.44

The American Chemistry Council

and the Bush Administration Lobby

Against Reform

Through international efforts, such as the

global Stockholm Convention on Persistent

Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Europe’s

REACH legislation, many governments are

adopting integrated approaches to replace

high risk chemicals with safer alternatives.

Unfortunately, the United States is playing

an active role in undermining this process.

At home, the Administration has tried to

use ratifi cation of the Stockholm Convention

as an excuse for restricting the ability

of the EPA and state governments to regulate

future POPs.

Abroad, the US government, largely led

by the State Department and Department

of Commerce have aggressively lobbied

against REACH threatening trade violations

and citing poorly researched economic impact

analysis created by the American Chemistry

Council (ACC). ACC’s predictions

of billions of dollars of

lost sales is countered by the

European Commission’s assessment

that the cost to the chemical

industry of pro-viding data

on their chemicals is estimated

to cost around 2.3 to 5.2 billion

Euros over 11 years of implementation.

This is equal to 0.15 percent of

annual profi ts from chemical sales, or about

50 cents per European each year.45

Not once have US government offi cials

recognized the economic and public health

benefi ts of REACH. The European Commission

has calculated that REACH will save

an estimated 50 billion Euros in health benefi

ts over the next 30 years and the prevention

of 4300 cases of cancer.

The Environmental

Protection Agency has

restricted less than

10 chemicals in the

past 25 years.

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 34

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 35

P R O D U C T M A N U F A C T U R E R S A N D R E T A I L E R S

R E S P O N D T O C H E M I C A L R I S K S

Using hazardous chemicals in

products is ultimately bad business

practice and future thinking

companies have been making

the transition to safer chemical use.

However consumer information about the

type of chemicals in household products is

very limited. People have no way of knowing

if contaminants are in the products they

buy and bring home, much less if these

“stealth” contaminants will end up in the air

and dust in their homes. We have no product

labeling or product registers to consult.

In the absence of such information,

advocacy and consumer groups have been

testing and researching company chemical

policies.

While collecting and analyzing the dust

from households across the country, Clean

Production Action sent questionnaires46 to

a sample of leading manufacturers and retailers

asking them if they use the chemicals

targetted in this study. We were also inter-

Human Health Criteria Ecological Health Criteria

Carcinogenicity Algae toxicity

Teratogenicity Bioaccumulation

Reproductive toxicity Climatic relevance

Mutagenicity

Content of halogenated organic

compounds

Endocrine disruption Daphnia toxicity

Acute toxicity Fish toxcity

Chronic toxicity Heavy metal content

Irritation of skin/mucous membranes Persistence/biodedgradation

Sensitization

Other (water danger list, toxicity to soil

organisms, etc.)

Other relevant data (e.g., skin penetration

potential, fl ammability, etc.)

Human and

Ecological Health

Criteria Included

in McDonough-

Braungart’s

Design Consultancy

Materials

Assessment

Protocol

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 36

ested to better understand the challenges

companies might face in transitioning out

of these chemicals.

We developed a color coding system

based on previous surveys47 to help consumers

understand companies chemical policies.

We based the color coding on company answers

to the questionnaire, on information

available on their website, or through public

announcements the company or retailer

might have made.

The results of our company ranking are

contained in Appendix II.

Industry Leaders

Products do not need to contain hazardous

chemicals. Innovation in healthy materials

is a profi table reality. We showcase four companies

who searched for and found safer

chemicals for their product lines. There

are many more like them who believe safe

materials are possible and profi table.

These companies

• Identify known or suspected hazardous

chemicals for immediate substitution

with safer alternatives.

• Work with employees and suppliers to

experiment and search for new materials

and designs; and

• Engage with public stakeholders and

disclose information to consumers.

Herman Miller ( ( www.hermanmiller.com)

Based in Western Michigan, Herman Miller,

a residential and commercial furniture

manufacturer has been quietly integrating

sustainability into their business practices.

Their commitment to redesigning their new

products is providing consumers with materials

that are safer and cleaner throughout

their life cycle. Their design strategies are

driven by an aggressive sustainability

agenda to be met by 2020.

Dubbed “Perfect Vision,” the effort establishes

signifi cant, measurable corporate

sustainability targets to be achieved

by the year 2020, including:

• Zero landfi ll

• Zero hazardous waste generation

• Zero air and water emissions from manufacturing

• Company buildings constructed to a minimum

LEED Silver certifi cation

• And the use of 100 percent green energy

to meet its power needs.

“Emerging technologies are enabling

us to actively pursue our sustainability goals,

and I’m convinced we’ll meet them,” says

Environmental Affairs Manager Paul Murray,

noting that in a number of areas Herman

Miller already is closing in on these objectives.

48

One key component to Herman Miller’s

strategy is the McDonough Braungart’s

Cradle to Cradle Design Protocol to assess

the potential hazards of materials and chemicals

proposed for new products.49 For

more information visit www.mbdc.com

and and www.greenblue.org.

These criteria are used to screen materials

and chemicals for the safest choices in

product design.

Herman Miller’s Mirra chair is an example

of a new product designed to use materials

that rank well in the assessment protocol.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic(vinyl),

brominated fl ame retardants and other

materials of concern were replaced with

safer alternatives. If current suppliers where

unable to meet the new environmental

Herman Miller

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 37

standards necessary for the product, they

searched for new suppliers who could. This

has important ramifi cation across supply

chains by rewarding those suppliers working

to produce and deliver safer materials

and chemicals. In addition to hazard assessments,

Herman Miller also designs for reuse

and recycling to achieve their zero landfi ll

goal.

Shaw Inc. (www.shawfl oors.com)

Back in December of 2003, Shaw Inc, the

world’s largest carpet manufacturer in the

world, based in Dalton, Georgia, launched

a new environmental policy to change the

way in which they design products. This

meant fi nding a new set of materials that

could be safely reused and recycled continuously

into new products. It also meant moving

out of PVC (vinyl) and other materials

and chemicals that pose a risk to human

health. Their vision below signifi es their

commitment to change.

Shaw Industries, Inc. recognizes that

merely preserving and conserving the natural

bounty of the earth will not make us a

sustainable corporation. A truly sustainable

carpet industry must mimic nature’s organic

cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The

answer does not lie in limiting growth, but

in encouraging the kind of growth that is

cradle-to-cradle, returning carpet to carpet

endlessly.

Toward that end, Shaw has adopted these

productive policies and practices.50

• Environmental sustainability is our destination

and cradle-to-cradle is our path.

Our entire corporation and all stakeholders

will value and share this vision.

• Through eco-effective technology we will

continuously redesign our products, our

processes, and our corporation.

• We will take responsibility for all that we

do and strive to return our products to

technical nutrient cycles that virtually

eliminate the concept of waste.

• We will plan for generations, while accepting

the urgency of the present. We

are committed to the communities where

we live and work. Our resources, health,

and diversity will not be compromised.

• We look forward to a solar-powered future

utilizing the current solar income of the

earth, anticipating declining solar costs

and rising fossil fuel costs as technology

and resource depletion accelerate.

• We will lead our industry in developing

and delivering profi table cradle-to-cradle

solutions to our free-market economy.

Economy, equity, and ecology will be

continually optimized.

• Honesty, integrity, and hard work remain

our core values. We will continue to deliver

unsurpassed safety, quality, beauty,

performance, and value to our customers.

Using McDonough Braungart’s Cradle

to Cradle Design Protocol, the company not

only designs for recyclability, but also prioritizes

the use of materials and chemicals that

are safer for human health and the environment.

To affi rm their commitment to their

new environmental policy, Shaw launched

EcoWorx® Backing—the industry’s fi rst 100%

non-PVC backing for carpets (see attributes

below). At comparable cost, using the best

available technologies and materials for performance

and human health, Shaw established

a new precedent that will lead others

to change.

Shaw Inc.

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 38

EcoWorx ® ® Backing

Backing 51 Backing51 • Recyclable into more EcoWorx® backing

• Thermoplastic compound containing

no chlorine to off-gas in a fi re and no

phthalate plasticizers to migrate into the

environment

• Equal to or better than PVC backing in

all performance categories

• 40% lighter weight than PVC, lowering

transport costs and carbon monoxide

emissions

• Extremely low in VOCs (exceeds protocols

for Green Label Certifi cation under

CRI’s Indoor Air Quality Program), available

with a low-VOC releasable adhesive

• Class I fi re rated, rating for smoke generation

far superior to PVC

• Available on any modular tile or six-foot

style with no upcharge, no minimum,

and no overage

• Offered with a high-performance Lifetime

No-Failure Warranty

100% recyclable into more EcoWorx®

backing through granulation and return

to the extrusion process

In addition to EcoWorx®, Shaw also used

MBDC’s Cradle to Cradle protocol to design

Eco Solution Q ® ® fi ber—a safer carpet fi ber.

Combining the two products creates a 100%

recyclable carpet that Shaw will pick up free

of charge at the end of life and reuse and

recycle back into new carpets. As with Herman

Miller, one product at a time, they are

establishing new design paradigms that not

only negate the need for harmful chemicals,

but also reduce the need for landfi lls, and

other waste sites.

IKEA (www.ikea.com)

For more than 60 years IKEA has been perfecting

ways of creating low prices—manufacturing

as inexpensively as possible building

our own stores, fl at-packing furniture

for customers to put together themselves.

But IKEA’s responsibilities do not stop there.

We also want the products to be free of hazardous

substances. And we don’t want the

wood in bookcases, tables or other products

in the store to come from areas where forests

are being devastated.52

IKEA, headquartered in Sweden, is increasing

its presence in the United States

giving consumers access to products that

are affordable yet made with the intention

of being hazard free. This has meant establishing

a comprehensive restricted substances

list for all of their suppliers, banning materials

like PVC (vinyl), and chemical classes

like brominated fl ame retardants. Every

IKEA product is designed with the goal of

being hazard free throughout its life cycle.

In areas where a safer material or chemical

IKEA

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 39

does not exist, IKEA establishes an aggressive

research and development program to

fi nd a safer alternative. In 1999, the company

phased out brominated fl ame retardants

but found it had to use a chlorinated

organohalogen as a replacement in one of

its product lines. Since then it has been researching

non-halogenated substitutes to

continue the transition to safer materials

that function well and meet international

fi re standards.

What makes IKEA unusual is that they

have been doing this long before environmental

issues were on the map as a corporate

priority and necessity to maintaining

competitiveness. IKEA has not been afraid

to work collaboratively with NGOs such as

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and

World Wildlife Fund. In 2002, they signed

the Friends of the Earth UK’s Risky Chemical

Pledge committing to:

• Using offi cial lists, identify which manmade

chemicals are suspected of building

up in peoples bodies (bioaccumulation),

or interfering with the hormone, immune

or nervous systems.

• Produce a strategy to identify which of

its own brand and branded products

contain these chemicals.

• Produce a timeline to phase out these

chemicals from its own-brand products,

with the aim of eliminating them in 5

years, starting with those chemicals,

which pose the greatest threat.

• Put pressure on manufacturers of

branded products to do the same.

• Report publicly on progress on an

annual basis.

IKEA is a world leader in sustainability.

They are the only retailer in the United

States offering consumers affordable

products ranging from beds, to shelves, to

couches and rugs that can be safely brought

into the home with the assurance that chemical

exposure is prevented to the greatest

extent possible for technologies available

today.

Dell (www.dell.com)

“Achieve an Environmentally Focused Culture53” Culture

Dell, the largest computer manufacturer in

the world, based in Austin, Texas, has responded

to the needs and demands of their

increasingly young, socially and

environmentally aware consumer base.

Electronic manufacturers have developed

restricted substances lists, largely due to

emerging European restrictions on certain

hazardous substances. However, a few such

as Dell, go beyond government regulations

by listing halogenated plastics, and PVC

plastic—materials long believed to release

high risk chemicals throughout their life

cycle for phase out.

“Dell’s vision is to create a company culture

where environmental excellence is second

nature. Our mission is to fully integrate

environmental stewardship into the business

of providing quality products, best-in-class

services, and the best customer experience

at the best value. The following environmental

policy objectives have been established

to achieve our vision and mission.”

Dell

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 40

Design Products With the Environment in Mind

• Design products with a focus on: safe operation

throughout the entire product

life cycle, extending product life span,

reducing energy consumption, avoiding

environmentally sensitive materials, promoting

dematerialization, and using

parts that are capable of being recycled

at the highest level

• Set expectations of environmental excellence

throughout Dell’s supply chain.

Their position on brominated fl ame

retardants also exceeds European Union

mandated industry standards. While most

companies work to comply with the European

Restriction on Hazardous Substances,

which bans only PBDEs by 2006, Dell’s

products are already PBDE free and plans

to phase out the entire class of brominated

fl ame retardants… “our publicly-stated goal

is to eliminate (all other) brominated fl ame

retardants in desktop, notebook, and server

chassis plastic parts by year-end 2004.”54

Dell’s Restricted Materials Specifi cation/

Supplier Programs

In order to meet global environmental

product requirements, Dell developed a

restricted materials specifi cation to encompass

all raw materials, parts, components or

products that are ultimately incorporated

into the product that Dell markets. For outsourced

manufacturers, this includes products

produced by the manufacturer on behalf

of Dell. The following list of materials

represent examples of substances that

Dell has reduced or eliminated in certain

applications:

• Asbestos and its compounds

• Cadmium and its compounds

• Chlorofl uorocarbons (CFCs)

• Chloroparaffi ns, short-chained

(10–13 carbon chain)

• Chromium VI and its compounds

• Halogenated plastics

• Hydrochlorofl uorocarbons (HCFCs)

• Lead and its compounds

• Mercury and its compounds

• Nickel and its compounds

• Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and

their ethers/oxides (PBDEs, PBBEs)

• Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and

terphenyls (PCTs)

• Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Dell has also committed to taking their

products back at the end of life “to reuse,

recycle and dispose of safely.”

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 41

To prevent hazardous chemical

exposures from everyday products

found in our own homes, we need

major changes in government

policy, industry practice and individual

consumer behavior.

For too long we have been exposed to

chemicals in common household products

with little or no information. This situation

can not continue. The national regulatory

system has failed to protect consumers,

citizens and children from the unintended

consequences of exposure to small doses of

harmful chemicals from multiple sources.

The federal Toxic Substance Control Act

needs to be replaced with a new chemicals

policy that will:

Require Safer Substitutes and Solutions

—seek to eliminate hazardous chemical

use and emissions by altering production

processes, substituting safer chemicals,

redesigning products and systems, and

rewarding innovation. Safer substitution

includes an obligation on the part of the

public and private sectors to invest in research

and development for sustainable

chemicals, products, materials, and processes.

W E C A N D O B E T T E R : The Way Forward to Safe Chemicals

Phase-out Persistent, Bioaccumulative,

or Highly Toxic Chemicals—prioritize

for elimination chemicals that are slow to

degrade, build up in the bodies of humans

and wildlife, or are highly hazardous

to humans or the environment.

Give the Public and Workers the Full

Right-To-Know—label products that contain

hazardous chemicals, list quantities

of hazardous chemicals used in agricul-

It will be obvious when chemists have fulfi lled their singular historic

obligation to promote sustainability…. Every newly graduated chemist will have

a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of sustainability ethics, toxicity and

ecotoxicity and will know how to avoid pollution when designing chemicals and

chemical processes. Chemists will have developed non-polluting affordable technologies

suitable for mass distribution that can convert solar to electrical and chemical energy

with high effi ciency. Through the properly informed design of chemicals and chemical

processes, an economically vibrant, safe technology base will have been invented

that is attractive to industry while being neither toxic nor ecotoxic.

Terry Collins, Director, Institute for Green Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University, USA.

Quoted in Green Chemistry, August 2003

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 42

Require Comprehensive Safety Data for

All Chemicals—assume that a chemical

is highly hazardous unless comprehensive

safety data are available for the

chemical and require manufacturers to

provide this data by 2015 for a chemical

to remain on the market—this is the

principle of “No Data, No Market.”

Take Immediate Action to Protect

Communities and Workers—When

communities and workers are exposed to

levels of chemicals that pose an immediate

health hazard, immediate action is

necessary to eliminate these exposures.

Our chemical industry could be designing

a whole new set of chemicals that are

safer and ultimately benefi cial for human

health and the environment with expertise

that already resides in our universities and

institutes.

Step One

Safer Chemistry—Companies can assemble a list of high risk chemicals and Companies can assemble a list of high risk chemicals and Safer Chemistry

substance by substance phase them out of their products.

Step Two

Green Chemistry—The chemical industry can learn the guiding principles of what The chemical industry can learn the guiding principles of what Green Chemistry

consitutes toxicity and potential hazards by reviewing the large body of resarch and

studies in toxicology and pharmacology. Then they can use these principles to design

chemicals less likely to be hazardous.

Step Three

Ecological Chemistry—The chemical industry and university researchers can identify The chemical industry and university researchers can identify Ecological Chemistry

those chemicals commonly employed by natural systems to support life and study

the processes by which organisms make these safe materials. These principles then

become the basis on which to design safe chemicals and materials.

Source: Adapted from Making Safer Chemicals, Ken Geiser, Lowell Center for Sustainbale Production,

Aujgust 2004.

The Transition to Safe Chemicals

ture and in manufacturing facilities, and

provide public access to safety data on

chemicals.

Act on Early Warnings—act to prevent

harm when credible evidence exists that

harm is occurring or is likely to occur,

even when some uncertainty remains regarding

the exact nature and magnitude

of the harm.

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 43

Ten Things You Can Do for a Toxic-Free Future

The public, consumers, industry and elected

offi cials can hasten the move to safe chemicals

use in society and we suggest ten steps

below:

1Get Involved-—contact your local or

state environmental group working to

advance safe chemical production and ask

them how you can help their efforts (for the

seven states partnering on this project, please

see contact info below. For other states,

please visit www.besafenet.com). These and

other national groups will be promoting

the passage of the Green Chemistry Bill

and working to reform federal chemical

regulations.

California

Center for Environmental Health

www.cehca.org

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition

www.svtc.org

Maine

Environmental Health Strategy Center

www.preventharm.org

Massachusetts

The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow

www.healthytomorrow.org

Michigan

Ecology Center

www.ecocenter.org

New York

Citizens Environmental Coalition

www.cectoxic.org

Oregon

Oregon Environmental Council

www.oeconline.org

Washington

Washington Toxics Coalition

www.watoxics.org

2Don’t buy products made of polyvinyl

chloride plastic (PVC), or ‘vinyl’—this

includes vinyl fl oors, vinyl shower curtains

and imitation leather goods such as vinyl

bags and toys. PVC requires a cocktail of

chemicals such as phthalates and organotins

tested for in this study. Vinyl plastic uses the

number 3 to distinguish it from other plastics

(or you can call the company to fi nd

out what kind of plastic it is). Visit the

Healthy Building Network to fi nd PVC-free

building materials (www.healthybuilding.net)

and Greenpeace International data base of

PVC alternatives (www.greenpeace.org. au/pvc/).

3Use natural forms of pest control in

your home and gardens. For information

visit the Pesticide Action Network’s website

at www.panna.org/resources/advisor. dv.html. html

Also visit www.beyondpesticides.org. org

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 44

4Buy curtains, carpets or furniture that

are free of brominated fl ame retardants

or perfl uorinated chemicals. Contact companies

directly to ask if they use these chemicals

in their products. See www.safer-products.

org

for more information. In addition, you for more information. In addition, you can replace carpets with wood fl oors, cork

tiles, linoleum and area rugs. For more information

visit www.healthybuilding.net

and and www.greenpeace.org.au/pvc/.

5Next time you buy cosmetics, choose

products that are free of suspect

chemicals. Visit the Safe Cosmetics Campaign

to fi nd brand name companies that

are phasing out harmful chemicals

(www.safecosmetics.org).

6Purchase your electronic products

from companies that avoid brominated

fl ame retardants (BFR). You can fi nd

a list of companies which are leading the

fi eld at www.computertakeback.org and and www.

cleanproduction.org

or visit our website at or visit our website at www.safer-products.org. Also ask companies Also ask companies org

when they intend to phase out the use

of PVC cables.

7Initiate a safer chemicals program

in government procurement

of all products and services at the

local or state level for bulk purchases

of computer and electronic goods,

and other product sectors outlined in

our report. Initiate pesticide-free bylaws

for all public spaces, and a phase

out of vinyl use in all public buildings

and furnishings.

8The same can be done in the

private and institutional sector.

If your employer buys in bulk from

suppliers, fi nd out about their chemicals

policy. At a minimum your company

should have a strict phase out date for

all Chemicals for Priority Action and a timeline

for transitioning to safer materials. It

is imperative that buyers source non-PVC

plastic (vinyl) for building materials and

consumer products. Big buyers can infl uence

the market in a way that individual

consumers can not.

9If you are a retailer ask your buyers to

implement a safer chemicals agreement

with their suppliers and make your policy

public. Responsible retailers such as IKEA

have implemented a strict chemicals policy

which they enforce through frequent spot

checks on their products. Other retailers

have joined retailer consortiums to exert

more pressure on their chemical suppliers.

Post your chemicals policy on the web,

through product labelling or through other

forms of direct communication with your

consumers.

Prioritize local and organic food

in school cafeterias, hospitals and

other institutional settings. Initiate pesticide-

free bylaws in your local community.

10

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 45

More Resources

Clean Production Action (www.cleanproducti

on.org), working with state partners, launched

the Safer Products Project to generate public

support for safe chemicals. We intend

to give updates to people who wish to stay

informed via our website at www.saferproducts.

org.

The following websites provide a wealth

of information and an invitation to join in

the movement to promote safe chemicals

production and use.

Vinyl, also called PVC, uses a wide variety

of toxic ingredients. When burned in fi res,

incinerators or accidentally, as in house

fi res, PVC will form dioxin as a byproduct

—the most toxic compound ever synthesized.

For information and further links

to information on PVC visit:

www.healthybuilding.net

• Greenpeace International data base

of PVC alternatives

www.greenpeace.org.au/pvc/

www.myhouseisyourhouse.org

www.besafenet.com

www.grrn.org

Pesticides. Find safer alternatives at:

www.panna.org/resources/advisor.dv.html

www.beyondpesticides.org

Cosmetics. Find who is using safer

chemicals at:

www.safecosmetics.org

Cleaning Products. Find out which products

contain hazardous chemicals at:

www.net.org/health/cabcon_results.vtml

Electronics. The Computer Take-Back

Campaign can tell you who is ‘taking it back

and making it clean” at www.computertakeback.

org. Also visit the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition

for information about materials in

electronics at www.svtc.org

Clean Production. For information on how

manufacturing plants and product designers

are moving to safer chemicals visit:

www.cleanproduction.org

www.bluegreen.org

www.mbdc.com

www.sustainableproduction.org

www.epa.gov/greenchemistry

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 46

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ethers in Washington State freshwater fi sh.

Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 41: 339-344.

15 Huwe, J., Hakk, H., Lorentzsen, M., 2002. A

mass balance feeding study of a commercial

octabromodiphenyl ether mixture In rats.

Organohalogen Compounds. 58:229-232.

16 Suresh, B., Schlag, S., Yoneyama, M., 2002.

CEH Report: Organometallics. http://

ceh.sric.sri.com/Public/Reports/681.7000/

17 Hock, M., 2001. Organotin compounds in

the environment – an overview. Applied

Geochemistry 16: 719-743.

18 Key, B., Howell, R., Criddle, C., 1997.

Fluorinated organics in the biosphere.

Environ. Sci. Technol. 31: 2445-2454.

19 Kissa, E., “Fluorinated Surfactants.” Dekker,

New York, 1994.

20 Moriwaki, H., Takata, Y., Arakawa, R., 2003.

Concentrations of perfl uorooctane sulfonate

(PFOS) and perfl uorooctanoic acid (PFOS)

in vacuum clean dust collected in Japanese

homes. J. Environ. Monit. 5: 753-757.

21 Lehmler, H.-J., 2005. Synthesis of environmentally

relevant fl uorinated surfactants—

a review. Chemosphere. In Press.

22 So, M., Taniyasu, S., Yamashita, N., Giesy, J.,

Zheng, J., Fang, Z., Im, S., Lam, P., 2004.

Perfl uorinated compounds in coastal waters

of Hong Kong, South China, and Korea.

Environ.Sci.Technol. 38: 4056-4063

23 Hoppin, J., Brock, J., Davis, B., Baird, D.,

2002. Reproducibility of urinary phthalate

metabolites in fi rst morning urine samples.

Environ Health Perspect; 110:515–8.

24 Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

National Center for Environmental Health.

Asthma Speaker’s Kit. Asthma Prevalence

by Age 1980-1996. Visited on the web Feb 25,

2005 at http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/speakit/

epi.htm

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 47

25 Rich Mayes, University of Richmond, VA. Rise

of ADHD Prevalence and Psychostimulant

Use: A Historical Perspective, Presented at

the 130th Annual Meeting of the American

Public Health Association, 11 Nov 2002.

26 DeGrandpre R. Ritalin Nation. Norton: New

York, 1999 quoted in Ted Schettler et al., Physicians

for Social Responsibility and the Clean

Water Fund, In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats

to Child Development, May, 2000.

27 Herman-Giddens, ME, EJ Slora, RC Wasserman,

CJ Bourdony, MV Bhapkar, GG Koch

and CM Hasemeir. 1997. Secondary sexual

characteristics and menses in young girls seen

in offi ce practice: a study from the pediatric

research in offi ce settings network. Pediatrics

99(4):505-512. Cited in www.ourstolenfuture.org

28 Carlsen, E., A Giwercman, N Keiding, N

Skakkebæk. 1992. Evidence for Decreasing

Quality of Semen During Past 50 Years.

British Medical Journal 305:609-613.

29 For an overview of studies visit: www.

ourstolenfuture.org/NewScience/reproduction/

sperm/humansperm.htm

30 Butte, W., Heinzow, B., 2002. Pollutants in

house dust as indicators of indoor contamination.

Rev. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 175: 1-46.

31 Maertens, R., Bailey, J., White, P., 2004. The

mutagenic hazards of settled house dust:

A review. Mutation Research 567: 401-425.

32 Simoni, M., Carrozzi, L., Baldacci, S.,

Scognamiglio, A., Pede, F., Sapigni, T., Viegi,

G., 2002. The Po River ( North Italy) indoor

epidemiological study: Effects of pollutant

exposure on acute respiratory symptoms and

respiratory function in adults. Arch. Environ.

Health 57: 130–136.

33 Lioy, P., Freeman, N., Millette, J., 2002. Dust:

A metric for use in residential and building

exposure assessment and source characterization.

Environ Health Perspect 110:969–983.

34 Clausen, P., Hansen, V., Gunnarsen, L.,

Afshari, A., Wolkoff, P., 2004. Emission of

Di-2-ethyhexyl phthalate from PVC fl ooring

into air and uptake into dust: emission and

sorption experiments in FLEC and CLIMPAQ.

Environ. Sci. Technol. 38: 2531-2537.

35 Vejrup, K., Wolkoff, P., 2002. Linear alkylbenzene

sulfonates in indoor fl oor dust. Sci.

Total Environ. 300: 51-58.

36 Maertens, R., Bailey, J., White, P., 2004.

The mutagenic hazards of settled house dust:

A review. Mutation Research 567: 401-425.

37 Tang, K., Nace, C., Lynes, C., Maddeloni, M.,

Laposta, D., Callahan, K., 2004. Characterization

of background concentrations in Upper

Manhattan, New York apartments for select

contaminants identifi ed in World Trade Center

dust. Environ. Sci. Technol. 38: 6482-6490.

38 Rudel, R., Camann, D., Spengler, J., Korn, L.,

Brody, J., Phthalates, alkylphenols, pesticides,

polybrominated diphenyll ethers, and other

endocrine-disrupting compounds in indoor

air and dust. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2003. 37:

4543-4554.

39 Lioy, P., Freeman, N., Millette, J., 2002. Dust:

A metric for use in residential and building

exposure assessment and source characterization.

Environ Health Perspect 110:969–983.

40 Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates—

PBT Opinion Research Report,

www.safealternatives.org

41 Schafer, Kristin, et al. Chemical Trespass

Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate

Accountability. Pesticide Action Network

North America May 2004. Available at

http://panna.org/campaigns/docsTrespass/

ChemTresMain(screen).pdf

42 Lipson, Mark. Searching for the “O-Word”:

Analyzing the USDA Current Research Information

System for Pertinence to Organic

Farming. Organic Farming Research Foundation.

1997

43 European Commission, Extended Impact

Assessment, COM(2003) 1171/3 (Oct. 29,

2003), pg. 27.

44 International Chemical Secretariat. What

We Need From REACH. January, 2005.

45 Ackerman and Massey, The True Costs of

REACH, Global Development and Environment

Institute, Tufts University (2004).

46 See www.cleanproduction.org

for questionnaire. for questionnaire. 47 For consistency, we are using the same system

Greenpeace used internationally in their dust

campaigns so that we can highlight double

standards. (www.greenpeace.co.uk

click onto click onto toxics campaign and then ‘chemical house’)

48 www.hermanmiller.com/CDA/SSA/News/Story/

0,1585,a10-c407-n322,00.html

49 Source: McDonough, et al., 2003, “Applying

the Principles of Green Engineering to Cradleto-

Cradle Design,” Environmental Science

and Technology.

50 www.designweave.com/DWEnvironmental.shtml

51 www.designweave.com/DWEnvironmental.shtml

52 Social and Environmental Responsibility,

IKEA’s brochure

53 www1.us.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/

corp/environment/en/program_policy?c=us&l=en

&s=corp&~section=000

54 www1.us.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/

corp/environment/en/prod_design?c=us&l=en&s

=corp&~section=011

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 48

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 49

A P P E N D I X I : Results of Chemicals Tested For, Occurrence, and Health Concern

Target Chemicals Uses References

Phthalates 80 – 90 percent of all phthalates are used in fl exible PVC products,

or vinyl – wall coverings, fl ooring, furniture, shower curtains, clothing,

raincoats, shoes, toys, etc. The rest are used in paint, medical

equipment, pesticides, and personal care products (perfume, nail

polish, hairspray). DEHP is the predominant phthalate in fl exible PVC

products, while DEP and DBP are used most often in personal care

products. Phthalates are also found in recycled paper products.

1, 2

Alkylphenols

and Alkylphenol

ethoxylates

Alkylphenols are used primarily as raw materials for the manufacture

of alkylphenol ethoxylates. Alkylphenol ethoxylates are used as nonionic

surfactants, emulsifi ers, lubricants or anti-oxidants in laundry

detergents, textiles, leather, paints, disinfecting cleaners, all-purpose

cleaners, spot removers, hair-coloring, cosmetics, adhesives, some

plastics and pesticides. Nonylphenol is used as a spermicide.

3

Polybrominated

diphenyl ethers

PBDEs are applied to textiles or incorporated into plastics, foams and

components of electrical goods to prevent or slow the spread of fi re.

They are found in polyurethane foam products, foam padding in furniture,

textiles, electrical appliances, televisions and computers. Decabrominated

diphenyl ether, BDE 209, is used solely as a fl ame retardant

in the hard, dense plastics of consumer electronics products (~ 80%

production volume) and in the latex back coating of fl ame retardant

upholstery textiles (~20 % production volume).

4,5,6

Pesticides Pesticides are applied in and around homes for controlling infestations

of various insects; applied to carpets, pre- and post-sale, to prevent

or or slow infestations of insects, dust mites, and mold. They are also

added to soaps, paints, and household cleaners. Inside uses of

chlorpyrifos and diazinon recently restricted by the EPA due to health

concerns. In agricultural areas, pesticides from neighboring agricultural

use can drift into homes and schools.

Organotins Organotins are used to the greatest extent as heat and light stabilizers

in PVC. They are found in PVC water pipes, PVC food packing

materials (e.g., dioctyltin), glass coatings (e.g., butyltin trichloride),

polyurethane foams and many other consumer products. They also

serve as catalysts for the manufacture of polyurethane and silicone

elastomers; as antifouling agents for ships and boats; as biocides

and fungicides applied to or incorporated in carpets and paints or

applied to fruits and vegetables; as surface disinfectants for wood,

paper, textiles, paints and some electrical equipment. Monomethyltin,

dimethyltin, butyltin and octyltin are the most widely used of the

organotins.

7, 8

— c o n t i n u e d —

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 50

Photo: Fuel Cell Energy

Perfl uorinated

Surfactants

PFOA and PFOS are used as fl oor polishes, photographic fi lm, denture

cleaners, shampoos, herbicides, insecticides, and adhesives in a

wide range of products, as well as surface stain-resistant coatings for

fabrics, carpets, and paper and as a coating for cookware. PFOA is

the best-known of the PFCs because it is used to make Tefl on, Goretex,

and other oil-, water- and stain-resistant materials used in many

common items, including nonstick frying pans, utensils, stove hoods,

stainproofed carpets, furniture, and clothes. PFOA is also used in fi re-

fi ghting foams, mining and oil well surfactants, and the manufacture

of other fl uoropolymers. PFOS is thought to be the main, fi nal degradation

product of many of the perfl uorinated chemicals released into

the environment.

9, 10, 11

Phthalates

Five of the seven phthalates selected for analysis were

present at quantifi able concentrations in all of the

dust samples, as shown in Table 2.

Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) was present

in all of the samples. With a mean concentration of

329 ppm, DEHP was predominant among not only

the phthalates but also all 44 contaminants. No federal

or state agencies have established regulatory limits on

levels of DEHP in house dust. However, even the lowest

DEHP concentration measured, 214 ppm, exceeds

the acceptable limit of 44 ppm DEHP in residential

soils established by the State of Connecticut.12 On

average, DEHP accounted for 78 percent of the total

concentration of the target phthalates in the dust

samples and 69 percent of the total concentration

of the 44 contaminants.

While this study found mean concentrations of 1.4

ppm and 329 ppm for diethyl phthalate (DEP) and

di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) respectively, Rudel

et al. (2003) reported higher mean concentrations

for both, 8.5 ppm for DEP, and 506 ppm for DEHP,

in their study of dust from some 120 homes on Cape

Cod, Massachusetts.

As shown in Figure 2, butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP)

(in the literature, this chemcial also appears as benxylbutyl

phthalate or BBzP) had the second highest concentration

among the phthalates and accounted, on

average, for 16 percent of the total mass of phthalates.

With a mean concentration of 69 ppm, BBP also

ranked second highest among all 44 contaminants.

Di-n-butyl phthalate was detected in all samples

with an average concentration of 20.15 ppm.

Dimethyl phthalate (DMP) was found at a very low

concentration in only one of the seven samples while

di-n-propyl phthalate (DPP) was below detection levels

in all samples.

Rudel et al. (2003) did not assay for dimethyl

phthalate but did assay for the following phthalates

that were not target analytes in the current study: dicyclohexyl

phthalate, 2.98 ppm; di-n-hexyl phthalate, 2.6

ppm; and di-n-pentyl phthalate (<rl).

In this study, diisobutyl phthalate was found at an

average concentration quite similar to that reported

by Rudel et al. (2003). However, much higher concentrations

of this phthalate were found in house dust

from Belgium, Brazil and the U.K. This may refl ect

different patterns of phthalate use in products made

and used in those countries.

Figure 3 shows the fi ndings of the current study

with respect to phthalates in comparison to those of

other studies of house dust from Belgium;13 Brazil;14

Cape Cod, Massachusetts;15 and the United Kingdom.16

The non-US studies also tested for some phthalates

that were not selected for analysis in this study.

In house dust from Belgium, Al Bitar (2004) found

as follows: dicyclohexyl phthalate, 1.7 ppm; di-noctyl

phthalate, 55.7 ppm; di-isononyl phthalate,

162.9 ppm; and di-isodecyl phthalate, 66 ppm.

In house dust from the U.K., Santillo et al. (2003)

also reported di-isononylphthalate (48.5 ppm) and

di-isodecylphthalate (20.8 ppm).

In house dust from Brazil, Costner et al. (2004) reported

dicyclohexyl phthalate (0.62 ppm), di-n-octyl

phthalate (1.4 ppm), di-isononyl phthalate (71.2

ppm) and di-isodecyl phthalate (93 ppm).

Phthalates—Production, Use, Occurrence

and Effects

“PVC is neither a biological nor technical nutrient.

It is a toxic nightmare.”

—Michael Braungart, Director,

McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry and

EPA Green Chemistry Award Winner

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 51

51 Global production of phthalates is an estimated 3.5

million metric tons per year,17 of which 80-90 percent

is used as additives in fl exible polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

plastic—commonly known as vinyl.18 Roughly 50 percent

of the market share for phthalates is accounted

for by di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP),19 at least 95

percent of which is added to PVC to give it fl exibility.20

DEHP is present in PVC (vinyl) products such as wall

coverings, tablecloths, fl oor tiles, furniture upholstery,

shower curtains, garden hoses, swimming pool liners,

rainwear, baby pants, dolls, some toys, shoes, automobile

upholstery and tops, packaging fi lm and sheets,

sheathing for wire and cable, medical tubing, and

blood storage bags.21

The remaining small share of phthalates not added

to PVC is used in personal care products such as skin

creams, hairsprays, lotions, nail polish, and fragrances,

and in a variety of other products including adhesives,

caulks, detergents, electrical capacitors, inks, solvents,

lubricating oils, paints, and pharmaceuticals.22,23,24

While environmental releases of industrial chemicals

are most commonly associated with their manufacture

and disposal, it is estimated that more than 75

percent of phthalate releases to the environment occur

during the use of products that contain phthalates.

25 Clausen et al. (2004) documented releases to

air of DEHP from PVC fl ooring.26 In studying phthalate

emissions from PVC skirting, PVC fl ooring, and

other materials, Afshari et al. (2004) concluded: 27

“Plasticizers used in surface materials indoors can be

detected in the indoor air and human exposure to plasticizers

can be expected. This study shows that the concentration

of phthalates in indoor air is independent of

ventilation rates and the area of surface materials containing

plasticizers, i.e. a small area of plasticizer containing

products emits almost as much as a large area.

Therefore, if the surface materials contain plasticizers,

it is impossible to avoid the phthalates in indoor

air.” [emphasis added] .”

[emphasis added] Phthalates are among the most ubiquitous synthetic

chemicals in the environment28 and are nearly always

found at some concentration in virtually all people

and wildlife.29 Phthalates are found in the air and dust

in homes and offi ces.30

Occurrence of Phthalates

and Their Metabolites in People

Exposure to phthalates has been associated with

• asthma and other respiratory problems, rhinitis

and eczema in children;

• premature breast development in female children;

and

• deteriorated semen quality, low sperm counts, and

poor sperm morphology in men;

Findings of the studies described below can be summarized

as follows:

• Phthalates and their metabolites are common, if

not ubiquitous, contaminants in the bodies of U.S.

men, women and children;

• A metabolite of diethyl phthalate, which is used in

personal care products, is present at higher levels

in the urine of U.S. adults who are 20 years old and

older;

• Metabolites of DEHP, DBP and benzylbutyl phthalate

occurred at higher concentrations in the urine

of the youngest people tested, children aged 6 to

11 years;

Studies in Germany found evidence that DEHP

concentrations exceeded U.S. EPA’s reference dose

in almost one-third of the people tested and were

about twice as high among very young children, ages

2 to 6 years, as among their parents and teachers;

80–90 percent of all phthalates are used as

additives in fl exible polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

plastic—or ‘vinyl’ products such as wall

coverings, tablecloths, fl oor tiles, furniture

upholstery, shower curtains, garden hoses,

swimming pool liners, rainwear, baby pants,

dolls, some toys, shoes, automobile upholstery

and tops, packaging fi lm and sheets,

sheathing for wire and cable, medical tubing,

and blood storage bags. They are now one

of the most widespread sysnthetic chemicals

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 52

Among 30 pregnant women in New York City and

30 in Krakow, Poland, all had measurable concentrations

of four phthalates—diethyl phthalate (DEP),

dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diethylhexyl phthalate

(DEHP), and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP)—in

their personal air and metabolites of these same

phthalates in their urine;

A study in Italy found DEHP and/or its metabolite,

monoethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP) in more than

80 percent of the cord blood samples from 84 births.

Pregnancy durations tended to be shorter for those

in which MEHP was present in the cord blood;

Several phthalate metabolites were detected in

pooled breastmilk samples from the U.S.

Exposure to phthalates has been associated with

— asthma and other respiratory problems, rhinitis

and eczema in children;

— premature breast development in female

children; and

— deteriorated semen quality, low sperm counts,

and poor sperm morphology in men;

In a study of urine phthalate levels in 2,541 U.S.

residents, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

found evidence of widespread exposure, with higher

concentrations in women. Concentrations of monoethyl

phthalate, a metabolite of diethyl phthalate,

were almost two times higher in the urine of people

aged 20 years and older than in children aged 6 to 11

years. Diethyl phthalate is used in products such as

fragrances, soaps, and hand lotions. The highest levels

of metabolites for DEHP, DBP and benzylbutyl phthalate

were found in the urine of the youngest people

tested, children aged 6 to 11 years. In fact, the concentrations

of monobenzyl phthalate, a metabolite

of benzylbutyl phthalate, were more than three times

higher in the children’s urine. Benzylbutyl phthalate

is used in products such as adhesives, sealants, and

car care products.31

In Germany, Koch et al. (2003) concluded that the

general population is exposed to DEHP to a much

higher extent than previously believed, noting that

31 percent of their subjects had DEHP values that

exceeded the U.S. EPA reference dose. They concluded

as follows: 32

“This is of greatest importance for public health since

DEHP is not only the most important phthalate with

respect to its production, use and occurrence and omnipresence

but also the phthalate with the greatest endocrine

disrupting potency.”

In a later analysis of DEHP metabolites in urine,

Koch et al. (2004) estimated the internal exposure of

nursery school children, aged 2–6 years, to DEHP to

be about twice that of their parents and teachers.33

In a study of pregnant women – 30 in New York

City and 30 in Krakow, Poland, Adibi et al. (2003)

measured concentrations of four phthalates in personal

air and the metabolites of these same phthalates

in urine. These phthalates—diethyl phthalate (DEP),

dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diethylhexyl phthalate

(DEHP), and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP)—were

present in 100 percent of the air samples and their

metabolites in 100 percent of urine samples. Their

results demonstrate considerable phthalate exposures

during pregnancy among these women and indicate

that inhalation is an important route of exposure.34

Animal studies have found that phthalates pass from

the mother through the placenta to the fetus and

through breastmilk to the newborn.

A study by Latini et al. (2003) found detectable DEHP

and/or its metabolite monoethylhexyl phthalate

(MEHP) in the cord blood of 88% of 84 newborns in

Italy. MEHP-positive newborns showed a signifi cantly

lower gestational age compared with MEHP-negative

newborns. Their fi ndings confi rm that human exposure

to DEHP can begin in utero and suggest that

phthalate exposure is signifi cantly associated with a

shorter pregnancy duration.35 Calafat et al. (2004) detected

several phthalate metabolites in three pooled

human breast milk samples in the U.S., suggesting

that phthalates can be incorporated into breast milk

and transferred to the nursing infant. Three of the

phthalate metabolites and three oxidative metabolites

were detected in all three pooled samples.36 Animal

studies have also found that phthalates pass from the

mother through the placenta to the fetus and through

breastmilk to the newborn.37,38,39

Effects of Exposure to Phthalates

and Their Metabolites in People

As illustrated by the studies discussed below, exposure

to phthalates and their metabolites have been associated

with a broad range of health effects:

• asthma and other respiratory problems, rhinitis

and eczema in children;

• premature breast development in female children;

and

S A F E R P R O D U C T S P R O J E C T : A L T E R N A T I V E S F O R A H E A L T H Y H O M E 53

• deteriorated semen quality, low sperm counts, and

poor sperm morphology in men.

Children exposed to household dust with the

greatest concentrations of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate

(DEHP) were 2.9 times as likely to have asthma

as were children exposed to the lowest concentrations

of that phthalate.

According to Jaakkola et al. (1999) and Øie et al

(1997), the presence of plasticizers in surface materials

indoors can increase the risk of bronchial obstructions,

asthma, and perhaps the susceptibility to respiratory

infections.40,41 The later noted that indoor inhalation

of DEHP-adsorbed particulate matter could be as or

more important than inhalation of vapor phase

DEHP. 42 Bornehag et al. (2004) found that children

exposed to household dust with the greatest concentrations

of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) were

2.9 times as likely to have asthma as were children exposed

to the lowest concentrations of that phthalate.

Similarly, children in homes with the greatest concentrations

of butyl benzyl phthalate were 3.0 and 2.6

times as likely as the other children to have rhinitis

and eczema, respectively.43

The concentration of phthalate esters was

signifi cantly higher in infertile men compared

with controls and they may be instrumental in the

deterioration of semen quality in infertile men.

A study on premature breast development (thelarche)

in female children aged 6 months to 8 years found

phthalate esters in 68% of serum samples from the

thelarche patients. The phthalate esters with the most

common commercial uses, DEHP and DBP, were detected

in the highest concentrations. For those samples

with high concentrations of DEHP, one of the major

DEHP metabolites, mono(2ethylhexyl)phthalate

(MEHP), was also detected. DEHP was detected in

only 14% of the control samples in lower concentrations.

A more sensitive analysis of eight thelarche samples

allowed detection of a further two phthalates, DMP

and DEP, in two and three samples, respectively.44

A study on premature breast development in female

children aged 6 months to 8 years found phthalate

esters in 68% of serum samples from the patients.

Duty et al. (2002) explored whether general levels

of phthalates in the U.S. population were associated

with altered semen quality and found suggestive

evidence of associations between high mono-benzyl

phthalate (MBzP) levels and low sperm counts, and

between high mono-methy phthalate (MMP) and

poor sperm morphology. Mono-n-butyl phthalate

(MBP), MBzP and MMP were associated with altered

semen quality. 45 In another related study, Duty et al.

(2003) found that urinary monoethyl phthalate (MEP),

at environmental levels, is associated with increased

DNA damage in sperm.46 Rozati et al. (2002) found

that the concentration of phthalate esters was signifi -

cantly higher in infertile men compared with controls

and concluded that they may be instrumental in the

deterioration of semen quality in infertile men without

an obvious mechanism of action.47

Effects of Exposure to Phthalates

and Their Metabolites in Laboratory Animals

Some phthalates and their metabolic products act

functionally as anti-androgens during the prenatal

period.48, 49, 50 Developmental effects in males include

reduction in androgen-dependent tissues—in the

reproductive organs such as seminal vesicles, epididymus,

prostate, and anogenital distance.51,52,53,54 Furthermore,

exposure of rats prenatally and during suckling

to DEHP and DBP has produced irreversible testicular

damage at dose levels that caused only minimal effects

in adult animals.55,56,57,58

Numerous studies have shown that some phthalates

are toxic to embryos and cause developmental malformations

in the offspring of exposed rodents. DEHP

has these effects in mice. It is also toxic to rat embryos

at dose levels that are not toxic to the mother.59,60 DBP

generally is toxic to the fetus of rats and mice in the

absence of maternal toxicity, and it has harmful developmental

effects only at doses high enough to be toxic

to the mother.61 In very recent studies, rats exposed to

DBP during pregnancy and shortly after birth, a number

of effects were seen in the male offspring including:

decreased anogenital distance, absent or underdeveloped

epididymis and seminal vesicles, cleft penis

(hypospadias), decreased reproductive organ weights,

and widespread germ cell loss in the testis. In contrast,

vaginal opening, age at fi rst estrus, and estrous cyclicity

were not affected in the female offspring indicating

that DBP does not mimic estrogenic but rather acts as

an anti-androgen.62

Exposure during gestation and through breastmilk

to large doses of dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and its

S I C K O F D U S T : C H E M I C A L S I N C O M M O N P R O D U C T S 54

metabolite, monobutyl phthalate (MBP), causes male

reproductive tract malformations in rats.63,64 DBP reduces

the production of testosterone by the fetal testis

through an anti-androgenic mechanism.65 Exposure

to high doses of DBP results in spontaneous abortion

of rat pups, demasculinization of baby male rats, and

decreased testicle size in rats, mice, ferrets, and

guinea pigs.66,67

In male rats, high doses of DEHP have resulted in

decreased testicle weights and smaller tubules.68 The

DEHP metabolite, mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate

(MEHP) may be the active agent.69,70

Although fewer studies have been carried out on

female animals, existing studies suggest that long-term

exposures of adult female rats result in adverse effects,