CEH: Bringing Your Valentine’s Dose of Megadeth, Rubber Duckies, and Health Victories

It's only February, and Already…

We're just a month and change into the New Year, and already the Center for Environmental Health has scored hard- fought victories for your family's health in 2010. A few highlights:

  • We've completed legally binding settlements with four major retailers, establishing the nation's first legal ban on lead in purses. Learn more here.
  • We've exposed Target for selling Valentine's Day teddy bears contaminated with high levels of lead. The retail giant has already pulled the item from its shelves. Read more below.
  • We've filed litigation against four nationwide retailers for selling jewelry tainted with cadmium. Results are speeding along, and three of these companies have already pulled contaminated necklaces from their shelves and are offering consumers refunds for these items. (Affectionately known in the CEH office as "Megadeath," cadmium is a heavy metal that can cause cancer, kidney problems, genetic damage, and male reproductive, uhh, complications). Read more about this important project here.

We hope you share our pride in the New Year's victories. As a supporter and as an advocate for public health, these are your victories too.

Rubber Ducky – You're Not the One (and an Exciting Offer)

rubberducky_135In their new book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck, environmentalists Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith show how the products we use every day in our homes and workplaces affect our health. In a don't-try-this-at-home experiment, Smith and Lourie exposed themselves to substances that are suspected (or known) to contain toxic chemicals.

The results were alarming: after just a few days of exposure to everyday items like vinyl shower curtains, their bodies' levels of certain toxic chemicals skyrocketed. "Slow Death" details these troubling results and equips consumers to make healthier choices.

CEH's Michael Green introduced the authors to a packed house at Booksmith in San Francisco last week as part of their nationwide book tour, and CEH guest blogger Peter Sullivan wrote a review of the book for Generation Green, our action and information hub.

To support both the book and our work, we're giving a free copy of Slow Death by Rubber Duck to all donors who make an online donation of fifty dollars or more to CEH in February.  


At Target this Valentine's Day: L is for Lead

lucy-with-bearA Valentine's Day stuffed bear sounds like a great gift for the kids in your life. But at Target, don't get too close to the bear! After all the public attention to lead-tainted children's products, you might think that major companies like Target would have systems in place to insure the safety of products they sell for our kids.

But you would be wrong.

Testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health found high levels of lead in Valentine's Day "message" bears sold at Target – the plastic "message" on the stuffed toys contains more than eight times the federal limit for lead.

Where have we heard this before?

Sadly, we've heard this too often before. Apparently the California Attorney General has heard enough as well: he asked Target to immediately pull the toy from store shelves and offer refunds to consumers, whether or not they have a sales receipt.

We have found high lead levels in a variety of plastic products including vinyl baby bibs, soft lunchboxes, and raingear.


While Target is likely not the last place we will find lead-tainted kids' products, we are proud to note that our work to eliminate this lead threat to kids is paying off, as we are seeing far fewer products made with this poison plastic. For example, during our recent Valentine's Day shopping we stumbled upon a nice surprise: a Valentine's Day singing stuffed dog that we found with high levels of lead last year has been reformulated! The new version, while still blasting an incredibly annoying version of the old MoTown hit Ain't Too Proud To Beg, now features a cloth (not plastic) guitar, and no longer poses a lead threat. 


Stay Informed with Generation Green, Facebook, and Twitter (then go out and do something)

group_135So it turns out that (in addition to informing you that your friends are waiting in line for Avatar) Facebook and Twitter can keep you in touch with cutting-edge environmental health news. Who knew? 

Along with Generation Green (our action and information hub), these resources are ready and waiting to keep you informed of the latest developments in our work. Check them out for practical tips that help your family avoid environmental health hazards. Share them with your friends to amplify your voice and push government and corporate decision makers to protect people's health. We promise: the content will be fun and useful (like Judy Levin's recent post on what to do with your old electronics), and none of this will feel like homework.

Follow CEH on Twitter here


Caroline's Corner: Lead in Purses

yellowpurse_135Last Holiday Season, CEH ran the Toxic Free Diva Campaign and we are proud to report that we've been making great progress to literally-Get The Lead Out-of women's accessories and consumer goods like purses, handbags and wallets.

"Lead? In my purse?" It makes no sense that an item we carry with us all the time and that often holds our lunch or snacks could have a potent neurotoxin like lead in it. It didin't make much sense to Diane Sawyer (who reported on CEH's efforts a few weeks ago) either. But it's true. Many brightly colored faux leather purses get their colors from pigments that contain lead.  

Lead damages developing brains and, as the Centers for Disease Control state, no amount of lead is safe for a child. The time when children are most susceptible to lead is before they're born, so women who are or who might become pregnant should not be exposed to lead, whether from their purses or other sources. Lead exposure is also linked with a surprising list of adult health problems: heart disease, cancer, and memory loss are just a few examples. 

That list of health problems is stunning. So CEH is now negotiating with a long list of companies to get the lead out of purses and other fashion accessories. 

Last month a California judge approved our first legal agreement on lead in purses. The agreement requires two stores (H & M and NY & Co) as well as two distributors (Haddad Accessories and Tri-Coastal Designs) to meet strict lead standards that are similar to those recently established by Congress for lead in children's products. It also provides funds that will enable us to check and make sure that the companies have actually gotten the lead out. These are the first-ever legal standards for lead in purses. We applaud the four companies for acting quickly. And just because the holiday season and our Toxic Free Diva Campaign is over, we aren't giving up. CEH will make sure that many other companies will not be far behind.  

If you have a purse or wallet that you're concerned about, bring (or send) it to CEH and we'll quickly test it for you and let you know if it has a lead problem. Our drop-in testing hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from noon until 6:00. 


Meet the People behind the Work


Between the bills, the policies, the issues, and the virtually unpronounceable chemicals, you can sometimes lose sight of the basics: our work is about people.

That's why we're redoubling our efforts to stay in touch with you, not only via internet technology, but also with in-person events where you can meet our expert and dedicated staff, learn more about our work, and while you're at it, take away information that will help you protect your family's health.

This past week, longtime Center for Environmental Health friend Sarah Callies (from successful TV drama "Prison Break") hosted one such event at the Samuel Freeman Gallery in Santa Monica. Guests met CEH founder and executive director Michael Green and other CEH staff members, including research director Caroline Cox – one of the nation's preeminent experts on the supposedly inert ingredients in pesticides.

Bouncing question after insightful question off our staff members, attendees not only took advantage of the expertise in the room; they also brought along toys, jewelry, backpacks, purses, and wallets, so that we could screen them for lead with our high-tech x-ray fluorescence analyzer. Leadiest item of the day: the cap on a necklace vial that an eight-year-old was wearing.

Sarah was prepared for exactly this kind of news, having discovered at a similar event in December (hosted by "Private Practice's" Paul Adelstein and Amy Brenneman) that her daughter's favorite toy also contained high levels of lead.
Stay tuned for events in your area, including one on May 25th in Palo Alto and another in Chicago later this year. We're also looking to hold additional face-to-faces in New York, DC, and a city near you. If you'd like to help organize one, please contact sean@ceh.org.

Our work is about you, and we want to meet you.