Antimicrobials (e.g. Triclosan, Triclocarban, Nanosilver)

Found In

Personal care products, soaps, hand sanitizers; clothing; textiles; kitchen tools; baby products; toys; craft supplies; building materials.

Health Effects

Triclosan, triclocarban: hormone disruption, antibiotic resistance;
Triclosan – allergies, skin irritation, fetal malformations; 
Nanosilver – persistent, toxicity in animals.

More details

Numerous chemicals are added to consumer products for their antimicrobial properties. These products include personal care products, as noted, as well as clothing, textiles, kitchen items, towels, toys, mattresses and baby care products. Because antimicrobials are ubiquitous in textiles and other consumer products used in the home, they are commonly found in house dust. One study found a strong correlation between the presence of antimicrobials in house dust and detection of antibiotic resistance genes.i Consumers, scientists and federal agencies are starting to question the safety and efficacy of these chemicals. The FDA is now banning the use of nineteen antimicrobial chemicals in cleansing products for personal use, because manufacturers have failed to demonstrate the efficacy of these chemicals in the face of a growing body of information showing health risks.ii

Triclosan, a widely used antimicrobial chemical is persistent in the environment and is found in human urine, blood and breast milk. CDC biomonitoring has detected triclosan in the urine of 75% of people tested.iii One study found an increased risk of fetal malformations was associated with higher levels of triclosan in maternal and fetal cord blood.iv Another study found an association between low birth weight and decreased gestational age with fetal exposure to triclocarban.v Exposure to triclosan is associated with contact dermatitis,vi responsiveness to airway allergens,vii food sensitization and adverse effects on muscle health.viii Triclosan is also a hormone disruptor and there is evidence of endocrine disrupting properties of triclocarban as well.ix GreenScreen® hazard assessments of triclosan and triclocarban yield scores of Benchmark 1 (avoid - chemical of high concern) and Benchmark 2 (search for safer alternatives) respectively. Both chemicals are ecotoxic and persistent in the environment, but triclosan is also acutely and systemically toxic.x A consensus statement by 200 leading scientists and health professionals documents the hazards of triclosan and triclocarban and lack of demonstrated benefit.xi

Nanosilver is also widely used as an antimicrobial in consumer products with potential to be released into the water, air and soil. One study detected its presence in clothing, toothpaste, a medical mask, shampoo, detergent, a towel, a teddy bear and two humidifiers, as well as its release into wash water.xii More study of human health effects is needed to fill data gaps on nanosilver, but a GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals evaluation of hazards associated with nanosilver yielded a score of Benchmark 1 (avoid - chemical of high concern), for conventional silver as well as for one form of nanosilver, due to its very high persistence and evidence of high ecotoxicity and systemic toxicity from repeat doses.xiii


i Hartmann EM, Hickey R, Hsu T, Betancourt Roman CM et al. Antimicrobial chemicals are associated with elevated antibiotic resistance genes in the indoor dust microbiome. Environ Sci Technology. 2016;50:9807-15.

ii FDA,

iii Dhillon GS, Kaur S, Pulicharla R, Brar SK et al. Triclosan: current status, occurrence, environmental risks and bioaccumulation potential. Int J of Environ Research and Public Health. 2015;12:5657-84.

iv Wei L, Qiao P, Shi Y, Ruan Y et al. Triclosan/triclocarban levels in maternal and umbilical cord blood samples and their association with fetal malformation. Clin Chim Acta. 2017;466:133-37.

v Geer LA, Pycke BF, Waxenbaum J, Sherer DM et al. Association of birth outcomes with fetal exposure to parabens, triclosan and triclocarban in an immigrant population in Brooklyn, New York. J Hazard Mater. 2017;323(PtA):177-83.

vi Robertshaw H, Leppard B. Contact dermatitis to triclosan in toothpaste. Contact Dermatitis. 2007;57(6):383-384.

vii Ginsberg GL, Balk SJ. Consumer products as sources of chemical exposures to children: case study off triclosan. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2016;28(2):235-42.

viii Pycke BF, Geer LA, Dalloul M, Abulafia O et al. Human fetal exposure to triclosan and triclocarban in an urban population from Brooklyn, New York. Environ Sci Techn. 2014;48:8831-38,

ix Chen J, Chang Ahn K, Gee NA, Ahmed MI et al. Triclocarban enhances testosterone action: a new type of endocrine disruptor? Endocrinology. 2008;149(3):1173-79.

x Clean Production Action,

xi Halden RU, Lindeman AE, Aiello AE, Andrews D et al. The Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarban. Environ Health Perspectives. 2017;125(6):1-13.

xii Benn T, Cavanagh B, Hristovski K, Posner JD, Westerhoff P. The release of nanosilver from consumer products used in the home. J Environ Quality. 2009;39(6):1875-82.

xiii Sass J, Heine L, Hwang N. Use of a modified GreenScreen tool to conduct a screening-level comparative hazard assessment of conventional silver and two forms of nanosilver. Environ Health. 2016;15:105


Bisphenols (e.g. BPA, BPS)

Found in

BPA, BPF, BPS: Polycarbonate plastic, food can linings, thermal receipt paper  BPA: dental sealants, powder coated metal cribs, bikes

Health Effects

BPA, BPS, BPF: hormone disruption, BPA: effects on reproduction & development, cancer; genetic damage; obesity & diabetes

More details

BPA is a chemical component of polycarbonate plastic in many food and drink containers and in epoxy resin coatings in food cans. Some children’s toys are also made of polycarbonate plastic, containing BPA. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) biomonitoring program has detected BPA in the urine of 93 percent of adults sampled.i Scientists have measured BPA in the blood of pregnant women, in umbilical cord blood and in the placenta, all at levels shown to cause harm in laboratory animals.ii iii BPA disrupts hormones in the human body and low-dose early life exposure in rodent and human cellular studies is linked with reproductive and developmental problems, genetic damageiv and cancer.v vi vii Higher BPA levels in urine were associated with ovarian dysfunction,viii recurrent miscarriages,ix cardiovascular diagnoses, diabetes, obesity, abnormal concentrations of liver enzymesx and reported heart disease in humans.xi

There is growing evidence from both animal and human studies that BPA may be contributing to obesity. Perinatal exposure to BPA followed by a normal diet resulted in increased body weight, elevated insulin and impaired glucose tolerance in adult rat offspring.xii Children and adolescents with higher urinary BPA concentrations were more likely to be obese.xiii

BPS has replaced BPA in many consumer product applications, such as thermal receipt paper, polycarbonate plastic and other polymer applications. While the safety of BPS has been less studied, there is evidence that it is a hormone disruptor.xiv In addition to BPA and BPS, other bisphenols have shown evidence of hormone disruption, including BPAF, BPB and BPF.xv A recent study found that exposure to BPA, BPS and phthalates, was associated with increases in oxidant stress, insulin resistance, albuminuria (a marker for kidney disease) and disturbances in vascular function in children.xvi Bisphenols in thermal receipt paper can be an important source of exposure for pregnant shoppers and cashiers in baby retail stores, who handle receipts, as these chemicals are easily absorbed through the skin.xvii


i Calafat AM, Kuklenyik, Reidy J et al. Urinary concentrations of bisphenol A and 4-nonylphenol in a human reference population. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2005;113(4):391-395.

ii Schonfelder G, Wittfoht W, Hopp H et al. Parent bisphenol A accumulation in the maternal-fetal-placental unit. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2004;110(211):A703-A707.

iii Ikezuki Y, Tsutsumi O, Takai Y et al. Determination of bisphenol A concentrations in human biological fluids reveals significant early prenatal exposure. Hum Reprod. 2002;17:2839-2841.

iv Hunt, PA, Koehler KE, Susiarjo M et al. Bisphenol A exposure causes meiotic aneuploidy in the female mouse. Current Biology. 2003;13:546-553.

v Wetherill, YB, Petre C, Monk KR et al. The Xenoestrogen Bisphenol A Induces Inappropriate Androgen Receptor Activation and Mitogenesis in Prostatic Adenocarcinoma Cells. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2002;1:515-24.

vi Markey, CM, Luque EH, Munoz de Toro M et al. In Utero Exposure to Bisphenol A Alters the Development and Tissue Organization of the Mouse Mammary Gland. Biology of Reproduction. 2001;65:1215–1223.

vii Munoz-de-Toro M, Markey C, Wadia PR et al. Perinatal exposure to bisphenol A alters peripubertal mammary gland development in mice. Endocrinology. 2005;146(9):4138-47.

viii Takeuchi T, Tsutsumi O, Ikezuki Y et al. Positive relationship between androgen and the endocrine disruptor, bisphenol A, in normal women and women with ovarian dysfunction. Endocrine Journal. 2004;51(2):165-169.

ix Sugiura-Ogasawara M, Ozaki Y, Sonta S, Makino T, Suzumori K. Exposure to bisphenol A is associated with recurrent miscarriage. Hum Reprod. 2005;20(8):2325-29.

x IA Lang, TS Galloway, A Scarlett, WE Henley, et al. Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with medical disorders and laboratory abnormalities in adults. JAMA 2008; 300(11): 1303-10.

xi Melzer, D., NE Rice, C Lewis, WE Henley, and TS Galloway. Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with heart disease: evidence from NHANES 2003/06. PLoS One. 2010; 5(1):e8673.

xii Wei J, Li Y, Ying C, Chen J et al. Perinatal exposure to bisphenol A at reference dose predisposes offspring to metabolic syndrome in adult rats on am high fat diet. Endocrinology. 2011;152(8):3049-61.

xiii Trasande L, Attina TM, Blustein J. Association Between Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration and Obesity Prevalence in Children and Adolescents. JAMA. 2012;308(11):1113-1121.

xiv Manjumol M, Sreedhanya S, Manoj P, Aravindakumar CT, Aravind UK. Exploring the interaction of bisphenol-S with serum albumins: a better or worse alternative for bisphenol A?". The Journal of Physical Chemistry.  2014;118(14):3832–3843.

xv Chen D, Kannan K, Tan H, Zheng Z et al. Bisphenol analogues other than BPA: environmental occurrence, human exposure, and toxicity- a review. Environ Sci Technol. 2016;50(11):5438-53.

xvi Kataria A, Levine D, Wertenteil S, Vento S et al. Exposure to bisphenols and phthalates and association with oxidant stress, insulin resistance, and endothelial dysfunction in children. Pediatr Res. 2017;81(6):857-64.

xvi Ecology Center, More than you Bargained For: BPS and BPA in Receipts.

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Flame Retardants

Found in

Foam products, such as furniture, baby gear; electronics; textiles; toys; building materials 

Health effects

Hormone disruption; can cause cancer, effects on development and brain; liver and thyroid toxicity; possibly obesity

More details

Flame retardants (FRs) migrate out of products into dust and into the human body. Because children play on the floor and put their fingers in their mouths, they ingest higher levels of these chemicals than adults.i ii Children can also be exposed to flame retardants through breathing and through the skin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified flame retardants in the bodies of more than 90% of Americans. Toddlers have up to five times the levels of flame retardants in their bodies compared with their parents.iii iv A higher number of infant products in the home has been correlated with higher FR exposure. Infants with more than 17 products in the home had almost seven times the levels of metabolites of TDCPP compared with those in homes with under 13 products.v

While certain brominated FRs have mostly been phased out for use in foam products, replacement chemicals, some of which still contain bromine or chlorine, are now found in the home and in the human body. Levels of organophosphate replacement chemicals in urine samples (TPP, TDCPP) increased significantly over the past ten Firemaster 550 chemical constituents (TBB, TBPH) were detected in 100% of household dust samples and 95-100% of hand wipe samples from mother-child study pairs.vii Replacement FRs (TDCPP, TCEP, TBB) have been detected in numerous house dust studiesviii and in child care environments.ix

Since halogenated flame retardants (those with chlorine or bromine) have become global pollutants and build up in the food chain, people can be exposed from eating fish, meat or dairy products.x Ten percent of infants in the U.S. may be exposed to brominated FRs in breast milk that exceed the reference dose (safety threshold established by U.S. EPA.)xi After California banned certain brominated FRs, levels in breast milk declined by 39% in first time mothers.xii

Exposure to toxic flame-retardant ingredients is associated with numerous adverse health effects. Components of Firemaster 550 (TBB, TBPH) were linked to endocrine disruption and obesity in ratsxiii and adverse effects on brain development and reproduction. TCEP, TDCPP and chlorinated paraffins have been identified as carcinogens.xiv xv xvi Halogenated FRs TBBPA, TBPH, TBB, TCPP and V6, containing chlorine or bromine, have potential to release carcinogenic dioxins and dioxin-like compounds.

Appendix 1 of the Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers summarizes health risks and exposures to flame retardants of concern in consumer products.


i Toms LM, Harden F, Paepke O, Hobson P et al. Higher accumulation of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in infants than in adults. Environ Sci Technol. 2008;42(19):7510-15.

ii Toms LM, Sjodin A, Harden F, Hobson P et al. Serum polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) levels are higher in children (2-5 years of age) than in infants and adults. Environ Health Perspectives 2009;117(9):1461-65.

iii Butt CM, Congleton J, Hoffman K, Fang M, Stapleton HM. Metabolites of organophosphate flame retardants and 2-ethylhexyl tetrabromobenzoate in urine from paired mothers and toddlers. Environ Sci Technol. 2014;48(17):10432-8.

iv No Escape: Tests Find Toxic Flame Retardants in Mothers – and Even More in Toddlers, Environmental Working Group and Duke University, August 4, 2014.

v Hoffman K, Butt CM, Chen A, Limkakeng AT, Stapleton HM. High exposure to organophosphate flame retardants in infants: associations with baby products. Environ Sci Technol. 2015;49(24):14554-59.

vi Hoffman K, Butt CM, Webster TF, Preston EV et al. Temporal trends in exposure to organophosphate flame retardants in the United States. Environ Sci & Technol. Letters. February 8, 2017.

vii Cowell WJ, Stapleton HM, Holmes D, Calero L et al. Prevalence of historical and replacement brominated flame retardant chemicals in New York City homes. Emerging Contaminants. 2017;3(1):32-39.

viii Mitro SD, Dodson RE, Singla V, Adamkiewicz G et al. Consumer product chemicals in indoor dust: a quantitative meta-analysis of U.S. studies. Environ Sci Technol. 2016;50(19):10661-72.

ix Bradman A, Castorina R, Gaspar F, Nishioka M et al. Flame retardant exposures in California early childhood education environments. Chemosphere. 2014;116:61-66.

x Fromme H, Becher G, Hilger B, Volkel W. Brominated flame retardants – exposure and risk assessment for the general population. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2016;19(1):1-23.

xi Lyche JL, Rosseland C, Berge G, Polder A. Human health risk associated with brominated flame-retardants (BFRs). Environ Int. 2015;74:170-80.

xii California Department of Toxic Substances Control,

xiii Patisaul HB, Roberts SC, Mabrey N, McCaffrey KA et al. Accumulation and endocrine disrupting effects of the flame retardant mixture Firemaster 550 in rats; an exploratory assessment. J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2013;27(2):124-36.

xiv State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Proposition 65 List: Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity.

xv IARC Monographs on Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risk to Humans. 1990.

xvi National Toxicology Program. 2005. DHHS. Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition; Substance Profiles: Chlorinated Paraffins (C12, 60% Chlorine) CAS No. 108171-26-2.

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Health Effects

Respiratory irritant and carcinogen

Found in

Children's clothing and footwear, furniture and composite wood toys and puzzles, personal care products

More Details

Formaldehyde is widely used in consumer products. It is in adhesives for composite woods and glues. It is used to make fabrics wrinkle less. It can be a preservative in personal care products. Manufacturers of children's products reported the presence of formaldehyde in games, jewelry, bedding, footwear, personal care products, dolls, clothing, accessories, tableware, play structures, and more.

In personal care products, formaldehyde can be present in the product even if it wasn't added as an ingredient. Scores of chemicals that release formaldehyde are known as formaldehyde donors, including DMDM hydantoin and quaternium-15, which are respiratory irritants and skin sensitizers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen.i


i. International Agency for Research on Cancer

Heavy and Harmful Metals


Children’s and other household products, including inexpensive jewelry; arsenic- soil, drinking water.

health EFFECTS

Effects on brain, development, learning and behavior; organ damage; cancer 

More Details

Heavy and harmful metals, including lead, cadmium, mercury, antimony, and arsenic can be added to children's products or show up as contaminants. Lead, mercury, and cadmium are toxic to the brain and arsenic exposure is associated with neurotoxicity, cardiovascular disease and other adverse effects. Arsenic and arsenic compounds are primarily added as a hardening agent or as a contaminant. Antimony is frequently in children’s products both as a contaminant and for functions such as coloration, hardening, strength, protective coating and as a flame retardant. Exposure to antimony is associated with eye and lung irritation and adverse effects on heart, lung and the digestive system. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists cadmium and arsenic as known carcinogens, certain lead compounds as probable carcinogens, and antimony trioxide as a possible human carcinogen. It does not classify Mercury.i


Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) summaries for the these metals:

IARC list of cancer-causing chemicals

Manufacturer reporting of the presence of chemicals to Washington State, including their "function" in the product can be found in the Child Safe Products Act database.


Found in

Stain-resistant and waterproof textiles; carpet and textile cleaning products; non-stick cookware; grease-resistant food packaging coatings e.g. pizza boxes, fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags.

Health Effects

Effects on reproduction and development; thyroid disease; possibly obesity; hormone disruption; possible kidney, testicular cancer; reduced immune response to vaccines in children.

More Details

PFASs are a class of chemicals used to greaseproof or waterproof consumer products including non-stick cookware, outdoor apparel and food packaging, such as pizza boxes, fast food wrappers and popcorn bags. They are also used in electronics, firefighting foam, and chemical manufacturing. The most well-known PFASs are PFOA and PFOS. Both have been phased out of production in the United States in recent years.[1]  However, they are still used and manufactured in other countries, and may be imported to the US in consumer products. These highly fluorinated chemicals are extremely persistent in the environment and in the human body. Studies demonstrate that PFOA and PFOS are linked to multiple health effects such as liver and metabolic toxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, tumor induction, immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity.[i] Data on human health effects of other PFASs is scarce, but animal studies suggest they may have similar toxic effects.

Long chained PFASs (PFOS and PFOA) are linked to increased risk for thyroid disease in adults[ii] and decreased immune response to vaccines in children.[iii]  In addition higher levels of PFOA in blood is associated with obesity in children.[iv] PFOA exposure is associated with kidney and testicular cancer in animals and has also been linked to higher incidence of these cancers among adults living near a chemical plant.[v]

While most products in the United States no longer contain PFOA or PFOS (“long-chained” PFASs), these chemicals have been replaced with “short-chained” PFASs. These replacement chemicals have been touted as being safer than PFOA or PFOS but new data suggest that short-chained PFASs may have some of the same health effects as the chemicals they are replacing.

The ability of PFASs to repel water and grease comes from their multiple carbon-fluorine bonds. Due to the strength of the carbon-fluorine bond, PFASs are persistent in the environment. PFASs have no known degradation pathways in the environment[vi] meaning that they stay in surface water,[vii] groundwater,[viii] wildlife[ix] and people[x] and are passed down through generations from mother to child through umbilical cord blood and breastfeeding.[xi] These chemicals move throughout the globe as a result of human use and end up in areas such as the arctic[xii], remote wildlife areas, and the open oceans.

One commonly cited benefit of short-chain PFASs is that are less bioaccumulative than long-chained PFASs. However, while they may not bioaccumulate as much in blood, one study has detected short-chain PFASs in human organs suggesting that we do not fully understand if humans are able to eliminate these chemicals.[xiii] Additionally, studies have shown that short-chained PFASs are persistent (i.e. they do not breakdown) in the environment, another similarity to the long-chained PFAS.[xiv] A recent study also suggests that exposure to short-chained PFASs can lead to endocrine disruption in pregnant women and their fetuses.[xv] Finally, recent studies have shown that there is disproportionate transfer of short-chain PFASs through umbilical cord blood to newborns.[xvi]

There is a lack of health risk information on most of the more than 3,000 PFASs intentionally used in products. While studies of short-chained PFASs are emerging, the evidence thus far is not promising. For this reason, leading scientists are calling on “the international community to cooperate in limiting the production and use of PFASs and in developing safer non-fluorinated alternatives.”[xvii]


[1] According to the EPA, “The manufacture and import of PFOA has been phased out in the United States as part of the PFOA Stewardship Program.” The EPA notes there may be PFOA in some imported articles.

1.          Strynar M, U.S. EPA, Per- and Polyfluorinated Compounds: Health and Environmental Impacts. Webinar April 19, 2017.

2.          Melzer D, Rice N, Depledge MH, Henley WE, Galloway TS. Association between serum perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and thyroid disease in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Environ Health Perspect. 2010;118(5):686-92.

3.          Grandjean P, Andersen EW, Budtz-Jorgensen E, Nielsen F, et al. Serum vaccine antibody concentrations in children exposed to perfluorinated compounds. JAMA. 2012;307(4):391-97.

4.          Braun JM, Chen A, Romano ME, Calafat AM et al. Prenatal perfluoroalkyl substance exposure and child adiposity at 8 years of age: The HOME study. Obesity. 2016;24(1):231-37.

5.          Vaughn B, Winquist A, Steenland K. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exposure and incident cancers among adults living near a chemical plant. Environ Health Perspectives. 2013;121(11-12):1313-18.

6.          Vecitis CD, Park H, Cheng J, Mader BT. Treatment technologies for aqueous perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA). Front. Environ. Sci. Eng. China 2009;3:129-51.

7.          Meyer T, De Silva A.O, Spencer C, Wania F. Fate of perfluorinated carboxylates and sulfonates during snowmelt within an urban watershed. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2011;45:8113-8119.

8.          Murakami M, Kuroda K, Sato N, Fukushi T et al. Groundwater pollution by perfluorinated surfactants in Tokyo. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2009;43:3480-86.

9.          Houde M, De Silva AO, Muir DCG, Letcher RJ. Monitoring of perfluorinated compounds in aquatic biota: an updated review. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2011;45:7962-73.

10.      Houde M, Martin JW, Letcher RJ, Solomon KR, Muir DCG. Biological monitoring of polyfluoroalkyl substances: a review. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2006;40:3463-73.

11.      Haug LS, Huber S, Becher G, Thomsen C. Characterization of human exposure pathways to perfluorinated compounds – comparing exposure estimates with biomarkers of exposure. Env. Int. 2011;37:687-93.

12.      Casal P, et al. Accumulation of Perfluoroalkylated Substances in Oceanic Plankton. Environmental Science & Technology. 2017;51(5):2766-75.

13.      Perez F, Nadal M, Navarro-Ortega A, Fabrega F, et al. Accumulation of perfluoroalkyl substances in human tissues. Environment International. 2013;59:354-62.

14.      Danish Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Short-chain Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), 2015.

15.      Gorrochategui E, Pérez-Albaladejo E, Casas J, Lacorte S, Porte C. Perfluorinated chemicals: Differential toxicity, inhibition of aromatase activity and alteration of cellular lipids in human placental cells. Toxicology & Applied Pharmacology. 2014;277(2):124-30.

16.      Gutzkow KB, Haug LS, Thomsen C, Sabaredzovic A, et al. Placental transfer of perfluorinated compounds is selective - A Norwegian mother and child sub-cohort study. Int. J. Hygiene and Environ. Health. 2012;215:216-19.

17.      Blum A, Balan SA, Scheringer M, Trier X et al. The Madrid statement on poly- and perfluorinated substances (PFASs). Environ Health Perspectives. 2015;123(5):A107-11.

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Health Effects

Hormone disruption; liver and thyroid toxicity; effects on reproduction and behavior; asthma symptoms; obesity.

Found In 

PVC plastic, including shower curtains, flexible tubing, IV bags, purses, older toys, pet toys, food packaging, backpacks, raincoats and clothing embellishments; nail polish; fragranced personal care and cleaning products.

More Details

Phthalates are plasticizers added to a variety of consumer products and used as fragrance binders in personal care products. Ninety percent of phthalates are added to vinyl (PVC) plastic to make it softer and more flexible in products such as shower curtains, purses, pet toys, food packaging, backpacks, raincoats, clothing embellishments and more. One study found that phthalates were the most abundant chemicals in indoor air and house dust.[i] Young children are exposed to phthalates through inhalation, ingestion and even through dermal absorption. A Danish study of 3- to 6-year-olds identified dermal absorption as the primary exposure route for DEP, DnBP and DIBP in the indoor environment.[ii] 

While biomonitoring studies find that urinary levels of some phthalate metabolites (metabolites of DEP, DnBP, BBzP, DEHP) decreased between 17 and 42 percent, others (metabolites of DiBP, DnOP, DiDP, DiNP) increased between 15 and 206 percent between 2001-2002 and 2009-2010.[iii] These findings may indicate that regulation of certain phthalates has decreased use and exposure, but other harmful phthalates are being used as substitutes.  Phthalate exposure remains widespread and an estimated 1% of women of childbearing age with high-end exposures to phthalates may be at risk for adverse effects on their babies, if they become pregnant.[iv]

Phthalates in personal care products could be an important source of exposure for infants who have immature metabolic and immune systems. Use of lotions, powder and shampoo with infants was associated with increased levels of phthalates in urine and was strongest in young infants.[v] Phthalate exposure is linked to adverse effects on the brain. One study found that reductions in child IQ were correlated with higher maternal exposure levels of phthalates in urine during pregnancy.[vi]

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is of particular concern, as a hormone disruptor and a possible human carcinogen, affecting the liver.[vii] [viii] The CDC biomonitoring program has identified metabolites of DEHP in nearly everyone tested. Exposure to DEHP is associated with liver and thyroid toxicity, reproductive abnormalities and adverse effects on the respiratory system, including asthma.[ix] There is also emerging evidence that DEHP is an obesogen. Higher urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations in adult males were associated with increased waist circumference and insulin resistance.[x] Children with higher DEHP levels were more likely to have higher body mass index.[xi]

In addition to DEHP, there is evidence of harm to health from numerous phthalates. DBP, DBP, DEP, DMP and DiBP have been variously linked to hormone disruption, infertility and other reproductive problems, tumor formation, breast cancer and early breast development.[xii]  The Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) of the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended a ban on the following phthalates in children’s products because of health concerns DEHP, DBP, DIBP, BBP, DINP, DCHP, DPENP, DIOP and DHEXP. They noted that “DINP had the maximum potential for exposure to infants, toddlers, and older children” and exposure to DINP was from food, from mouthing teethers and toys, and from dermal contact with child care articles and home furnishings. The CHAP recommends that U.S. agencies “conduct the necessary risk assessments with a view to supporting risk management steps” regarding exposures from food and other products for numerous phthalates.[xiii]


1.          Rudel RA, Dodson RE, Perovich IJ et al. Semi-volatile endocrine-disrupting compounds in paired indoor and outdoor air in two northern California communities. Environ Sci Technol. 2010;44(17):6583-90.

2.          Beko G, Weschler CJ, Langer S et al. Children’s phthalate intakes and resultant cumulative exposures estimated from urine compared with estimates from dust ingestion, inhalation and dermal absorption in their homes and daycare centers. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(4):e62442.

3.          Zota AR, Calafat AM, Woodruff TJ. Temporal trends in phthalate exposures: findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2001-2010. Environ Health Perspectives. 2014;122(3):235-41.

4.          Carlson KR, Szeszel-Fedorowicz W. Estimated Phthalate Exposure and Risk to Women of Reproductive Age as Assessed Using 2013/2014 NHANES Biomonitoring Data. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. February 2017. 

5.          Sathyanarayana S, Karr CJ, Lozano P, Brown E et al. Baby care products: possible sources of infant phthalate exposure. Pediatrics. 2008;121(2):e260-268.

6.          Factor-Livak P, Insel B, Calafat AM, Liu X et al. Persistent associations between maternal prenatal exposure to phthalates on child IQ at age 7 years. PLOSone, December 10, 2014.

7.                      U.S. EPA, Integrated Risk Information System.

8.          CDC

9.          Sathyanarayana S. Phthalates and children’s health, Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care. 2008; 38:34-39.

10.      Stalhut RW, van Wijngaarden E, Dye TD, Cook S, Swan S. Concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with increased waist circumference and insulin resistance in adult males. Environ Health Perspect. 2007;115(6): 876-882.

11.      Gray BB, Plastics chemical linked to obesity in kids. US News Health Day. June 23, 2012.  (describing unpublished research of Dr. Mi-Jung Park, Inje University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.)

12.      Breast Cancer Prevention Partners,

13.      Report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission by the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel on Phthalates and Phthalate Alternatives

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Health Effects

Affects brain/nervous system & reproduction; liver and kidney toxicity; respiratory impairment; cancer; dermatitis.

Found In

Paint; dry cleaning chemicals; paint thinners/strippers; nail polish removers; spot removers; art materials; adhesives; glues; personal care products & cleaners; contaminated drinking water; children’s products.

More Details

Solvents are substances used in industrial applications and by consumers to dissolve other substances or chemicals. Common exposure to solvents (toluene, ethyl alcohol, turpentine, acetone, kerosene, benzene, naphthas, lacquer thinners, mineral spirits, methyl chloroform) occurs through use of: paint; paint strippers/ thinners; varnishes; dry cleaning chemicals; cleaners/degreasers; nail polish and removers; spot removers; art materials; adhesives; glues; or automotive products.

Studies of long-term and high exposures to organic (carbon-based) solvents, as in the workplace, present a high health hazard, including severe acute symptoms, such as blindness, irregular heartbeat, and damage to organs and nervous system. While household exposure levels are significantly lower than workplace exposures, it’s important to note that many solvents are: 1) carcinogens or reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens (benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, 1,4-dioxane, perchloroethylene, styrene, trichloroethylene);[i] 2) reproductive toxicants (2-ethoxyethanol, 2-methoxyethanol, methyl chloride); and/or 3) recognized neurotoxins (n-hexane, tetrachloroethylene (TCE) and toluene).[ii]

Numerous solvents of concern are present at low levels as contaminants and intentionally added to children’s products, including 4-nonylphenol, acetaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, ethylbenzene, ethylene glycol, methyl ethyl ketone, methylene chloride, and toluene. They are in product components such as surface coatings, textiles, inks/dyes, synthetic polymers, and bio-based materials.[iii]


1.          National Institutes of Health

2.          Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH

3.          Washington Department of Ecology, Children’s Safe Products Act reporting data for 2016-2017.


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Vinyl Chloride

Found In

Pipes and building materials; wall, window and floor coverings; wire coatings; vehicle upholstery; furniture fabrics; shower curtains and other household goods; baby products; toys; backpacks; clothing; pet products.

Health Effects

Production releases toxic pollutants linked to cancer, birth defects, learning and developmental problems. Toxic additives in products (heavy metals, phthalates) associated with reproductive and developmental problems.

More Details

Vinyl chloride (used to manufacture polyvinyl chloride, PVC) is one of the highest production volume chemicals in the world and is used to make PVC infant and children’s toys, pipes, wire coatings, vehicle upholstery, wall coverings, flooring and various household goods. PVC is considered to be toxic throughout its lifecycle. The production of PVC contaminates workers and communities through the releases of pollutants such as vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, mercury, dioxins and furans, and PCBs, linked to cancer, birth defects and other serious health effects. In addition, PVC products expose consumers to harmful chemical additives such as phthalates, lead, cadmium and organotins. The use of vinyl chloride in baby cots and toys was reported to Washington State as a component of plastic resin and for coloration in surface coatings, synthetic polymers and inks/dyes.[i] The eventual disposal of PVC is a significant source of dioxins and furans, considered to be among the most toxic chemicals on the planet.


1.          Washington Department of Ecology, Children’s Safe Products Act reporting data for 2016-2017.