Jen van der Meer

What’s in a Rubber Duck? Stuff Under Scrutiny

Published: (Updated: ) in Inhabitat, Open Forum, Product Ecology, by .

At Open Forum for Inhabitat:
Rubber Duck Sniff Test
Rubber Duck Sniff Test
The Ecology Center recently launched a provocative website, Healthy Stuff, which lists the environmental toxins contained in over 900 products, anything from cars to children’s toys to women’s handbags. Rather than rely on product ingredient lists or company social responsibility reports, the data comes directly from a machine called an XRF Analyzer, which uses X-ray fluorescence to detect the presence of toxins such as lead, cadmium, mercury, bromine, chlorine, and arsenic. 
The results often surprise consumers. Of the 400 pet products chosen for testing, over one quarter had detectable levels of lead, 7 percent of which had levels higher than the Consumer Products Safety Commission allows for children’s toys. Over half of the children’s car seats tested contain one or more chemicals such as chlorine, bromine, or heavy metals. All of the baby bath toys, including rubber ducks, tested contained chlorine.  Overall 90% of back-to-school supplies contained one or more chemicals highlighted for their potential negative impact on human health.

Regulation typically allows for small amounts of these ingredients in certain product categories, for example less than 330 parts per million lead exposure for children’s toys is an acceptable risk. Yet highly concerned consumers and health advocates are taking the hard line, asking for the elimination and removal of all toxins. As SIGG recently found out, the disclosure that BPA was an ingredient in their bottle liners made prior to August, 2008 enraged the company’s fan base, even though the company insists that the bottles are safe.

What is being asked of company owners? As Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center says, “Product manufacturers and legislators must take the lead and replace dangerous substances with safe alternatives.” Is this issue of concern to your company, and are you taking steps to change your manufacturing process for this heightened scrutiny?