Last November, the federal government named the first 10 chemicals to be reviewed under America’s recently reformed chemical safety law. It made me wonder just how easy it would be to find these potentially dangerous ingredients in every-day consumer products.
The answer: very easy. In fact, while you’ve probably not heard of many of these 10 chemicals [PDF] – or how they could affect your health – the products that contain them are likely all too familiar.
To round them up, I turned to my usual online and brick-and-mortar retailers: Amazon.com, my local hardware and hobby stores, and my go-to online auto supply provider.
This degreaser kills bugs “instantly”
Amazon is my favorite vendor for everything from diapers to razors. Turns out, it can also bring me products containing PERC, 1-Bromopropane, TCE and many more hazardous chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases.
Purchasers’ Amazon reviews provided interesting insights. For example, Lectra Clean Degreaser, designed to clean electronics and engine parts using PERC, earned 5 out of 5 stars from one Amazon reviewer.
“I always keep a couple cans of this handy,” this reviewer wrote. “It’s also an amazing bug killer. It will kill any fly, wasp or nuisance bug almost instantly upon contact. Put the small red tube in and you’ve got about 8 feet of accurate Armageddon for our insect friends.”
Of course, what’s bad for bugs often isn’t great for people, either.
You won’t go “green” with this paint stripper
At my local hardware store, I picked up an NMP-based paint stripper. The product is sold under the brand “Back to Nature” and includes a logo that urges customers to “Go Green.” That’s pretty upbeat language for a product that can harm fetal development.
Generally, hardware stores are easy places to find products with chemicals on the EPA’s first-10 list. So are craft and hobby stores.
In fact, Carbon Tetrachloride, which has been linked to kidney and liver damage in people exposed to it over an extended period of time, can be found in adhesives in stores that cater to artsy people, including children.
Craft and hobby stores are also places where you can find chemicals from the list such as Pigment Violet 29, used in some permanent violet paints. Or 1-Bromopropane, which is used in certain adhesives and has been linked to cancer, neurological disease and reproductive problems.
Asbestos brake pads shipped – loose in flimsy box
Nothing can beat an auto supply provider, however. There you can find degreasing products containing TCE, PERC and 1-Bromopropane. It’s also where I located the ”coup de grace” in my toxic chemical scavenger hunt: asbestos brake pads.
Despite EPA’s inability to ban asbestos under the old chemical law, its use has been significantly curtailed by lawsuits thanks to a clear link to mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer.
But it’s still out there: An online auto supply vendor shipped me asbestos brake pads, loose and unwrapped, rattling around in a flimsy cardboard box that included a small warning label “contains asbestos fibers, avoid breathing dust.”
We can chuckle a bit at how casually a company shipped a product containing a deadly carcinogen, but this is serious stuff. The men and women who work with asbestos brake pads can get deathly ill, and so can their families, when the fibers come home on clothing.
How, you ask, are such blatant health risks be overlooked in a modern, developed nation?
We need your help
Well, for decades, America’s main chemical safety law offered virtually no protection against toxic chemicals that flooded the market. Badly outmoded and outdated, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 could not even restrict a known carcinogen like asbestos.
Fortunately, last year, an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress passed legislation to reform the law, starting with the review of those first 10 chemicals – among other important responsibilities and actions required under the new law.
It’s now up to us to make sure the Trump administration follows through so workers, kids, pregnant women and the rest of us get the protection we deserve.