Fall 2010 Newsletter

CEH Passes Law to Protect Kids from Cadmium!


California’s governor just signed our legislation to protect children from dangerous levels of cadmium in their jewelry.

Along with our partners at the American Association of University Women, CEH co-sponsored the bill (California Senator Fran Pavley’s SB 929) in the California legislature.

And CEH members like you jumped on board to support this groundbreaking legislation, urging your friends and state legislators to take action.

How did all this come about? Since 2005, CEH has used a 2006 California law (which we wrote) to eliminate lead hazards from jewelry. Then, early this year the media ran a number of stories about jewelry tainted with high levels of cadmium, a substance that’s linked with cancer, infertility, birth defects, and other health problems. It wasn’t an isolated problem; to date, CEH has found that over two dozen companies were selling cadmium-tainted jewelry, some for children and some for teens and adults. We’re now taking legal action to eliminate those unnecessary health threats.

Legislation like our new cadmium law is a vital tool that will help protect children in California. Of course there’s more work to be done to protect kids nationwide from toxic cadmium.

But let’s remember that cadmium is only one of nearly 100,000 chemicals that wind up in our products. That’s why CEH is working with allies nationwide to push for comprehensive chemical policy reform. This will force companies to prove that their products are safe before they end up on our store’s shelves and in our kids’ hands.

Please ask your representative to co-sponsor HR 5820, the Toxic Chemical Safety Act. Our online tool makes taking action quick and easy.

CEH Welcomes Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS)

CEH is proud to announce that we’re teaming up with Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS) – a smart, effective organization that’s as concerned as we are about toxic chemicals.

So what is MOMS?

Five years ago, a group of 75 mothers and babies gathered in a Bay Area living room to launch Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS). While they may have been lured there by the chocolate chip cookies and organic milkshakes made to order, those in attendance stuck around to hear about a plan to build a grassroots network of moms working to eliminate toxic chemicals from mothers’ milk.

Since then, MOMS has collaborated with CEH on a number of issues. In 2006, we took part in a protest against Target Corporation that resulted in numerous print, radio, and television stories (with moms nursing babies, strollers running laps around the store, a 50ft. rubber duck balloon hovering over the freeway—how could it not?). Soon after, the company announced it was phasing out the use of toxic polyvinyl chloride (PVC, which is often a source of lead contamination) in its products and packaging. In 2008, we teamed up again to host a toy-testing party that was featured on a PBS Now special on phthalates in toys.

So what does breast milk have to do with lead or phthalates in toys? Well, good question.

The answer? Everything.

The way to eliminate the presence of toxins in breast milk is to make sure they don’t end up in women’s bodies in the first place. Even the earliest exposures to chemicals like pesticides or flame retardants often linger in our bodies until we reproduce, and then can be passed on to our children in our wombs or while breastfeeding.

Since that first gathering in San Francisco five years ago, our network has quietly grown to include thousands of concerned parents across the US and in Canada. As those breastfeeding mothers wean their children, or as their kids grow up and enter school, new environmental concerns inevitably emerge: the safety of the playgrounds they visit, the food they eat, the quality of the indoor air they breathe, the toys they play with.

To help MOMS members stay informed and engaged on these issues, MOMS has recently become a project of the Center for Environmental Health. It’s a perfect fit, giving MOMS a convenient way to put the energy of its network behind some today’s most effective environmental health campaigns.

We are excited about the next phase of our collaboration with MOMS, so please stay tuned for more on this exciting new project at Generation Green, and at www.safemilk.org.


Cartoons and Critics: Lead in Bounce Houses Is No Joke

Here at CEH, we use a California law most people call “Prop 65” to protect children from unnecessary exposures to the lead and other toxic chemicals that we’ve found in dozens of products (like baby bibs, diaper rash creams, lunchboxes, jewelry and many others).

Every year, attorneys who work on Prop 65 cases gather for a conference. It’s a friendly gathering of mostly high-paid lawyers from the chemical industry (CEH staff are among the few low-paid, nonprofit types in attendance). This year one of the kickoff speakers, an industry scientist, started his presentation with a recent editorial cartoon that lampoons California Attorney General Jerry Brown (who is running for Governor), showing worried kids in a bounce house while Brown, dressed in a “decontamination” suit, looks on.

The point of the cartoon, and the industry’s long-time attitude, is that Prop 65 goes too far and overburdens businesses that make harmless products. The cartoon takes Brown on for his Prop 65 case against makers of bounce houses – which he launched along with us, after CEH found high levels of lead in dozens of the inflatable jumpers that we tested. The cartoon suggests that Brown, and Prop 65, are needlessly ruining kids’ parties by taking on the problem of lead in bounce houses.

But later on that day, the industry scientist recanted his position on bounce houses. He came up to me and apologized for using the cartoon to illustrate his point. “I thought that CEH’s litigation over lead-tainted bounce houses was ridiculous,” he explained, “but I just talked with members of the attorney general’s office and now I realize that it’s a real problem.”

And yes, it is a real problem. CEH has been testing bounce houses (also known as jumpies) for lead since last spring. The results are unsettling. Most of what we’ve tested has lead problems; as much as 70 times the federal limit for lead in children’s products. Testing also shows that lead can easily come off bounce houses, and that kids playing in jumpers can be exposed to more lead than the law allows.

In August we partnered with the California attorney general, initiating Prop 65 litigation to pressure six leading bounce house manufacturers to eliminate the lead hazards from their products, and we are now in the process of adding additional companies to the legal action.

Our goal is to make sure that the entire bounce house industry complies with the federal standards for lead in children’s products.

Ultimately, our work will make bounce houses safer. In the meantime, we recommend that parents take some protective steps. Be sure that kids wash their hands and faces often when they’re at a bounce house party (always between bouncing and snacking), that they change clothes as soon as possible after it’s over, and that they put those clothes directly in the laundry.

For media coverage of the lawsuits, see:

New York Times article

Good News About Lead Problems in Artificial Turf

In August, CEH and the California attorney general finalized legal agreements with two major companies that ban lead above trace levels in turf. Added to our earlier legal agreements, this means that the five largest turf companies must all meet strict lead standards.

In 2008, when CEH started working to get hazardous lead out of synthetic turf used at schools, parks, daycares, and homes, most turf companies used pigments that contained lead. Tests showed that lead came off the turf and exposed children who played on the fields. But thanks to our legal agreements, we’re pleased to tell you that this will no longer be an issue in new turf.

For more information about the agreements, which include some requirements for replacing existing hazardous turf, click here.

If you’re concerned about turf that you or your children use, CEH is happy to test it for lead. Just send a half dozen blades along with your e-mail address and we’ll let you know if there’s a problem. Our address is:

2201 Broadway, Suite 302

Oakland CA 94612


Will California Pave the Way for Good Jobs and Clean Air across the U.S.?

Thanks to CEH members like you, California is finally doing something about the fact that air in our nation’s portside communities is unsafe for children. Earlier this month, truck drivers and audacious air breathers in Los Angeles won a landmark legal victory when a California district judge ruled in favor of the Los Angeles Clean Truck program. This allowed the Port of Los Angeles to enforce all the provisions of one of the most effective diesel reduction programs in the country!

Most importantly, the judge’s decision will improve air quality in Los Angeles and create good jobs for the hundreds of truck drivers who serve the port (drivers who, until the Clean Truck program came along, didn’t have salaries, benefits, or access to opulent workplace luxuries such as bathrooms).

With your help, we’ll be able to bring this victory to port communities across the country. We’ve already gotten thousands of supporters to add their name to the growing list of Americans who want Congress to carry federal legislation that will bring clean air and good jobs to ports nationwide.

In October, we’ll be giving one last push to get this bill through Congress, so stay tuned for our next Clean Ports action alert for another chance to take action!



Support CEH on the Road!

CEH is taking the show on the road to celebrate events with supporters across the country. We’re working hard to spread the word about the important work that we do so that we can continue protecting families and communities from toxic chemicals.

From lead in children’s products, handbags, and jewelry to toxins in our food, air, and water, CEH is making a profound difference in the health of our families. We’ve already had successful events in New York City and Marin, and now we’re moving on to Chicago, Oakland, and San Francisco!

Live in the Chicago area? Please join us and other friends next week for a lively fundraiser concert next Friday, October 8th in Chicago. Live in the Bay Area? Then come to Oakland on November 16th, or join us December 6th in San Francisco for a special screening of The Story of Electronics, by The Story of Stuff Project.

Who knew environmental activism could be so fun?

Invites are coming your way, so stay tuned!