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Time to Perform a Health Check on Your “Stuff”

September 16, 2009

OAKLAND, Calif. - Californians now have a way to "check their stuff," on a new Web site that lists the hazardous chemicals found in everyday products - from children's toys to women's handbags, to pet products and more.

Starting today (Wed., Sept. 16), the site includes tests results for more than 5,000 common items that can alert consumers to the potential dangers of lead, mercury and other hazardous chemicals.

Michael Green, executive director of the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health, says the information is useful because so many consumers find themselves in "buyer-beware" situations.

"They don't necessarily have the information available to them to know which products are safe and which are not. And they assume that the government is making sure that there are not unsafe products on the shelves."

Congress is gearing up to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, a law Green describes as "out-of-date," but it may take a while. He believes the law should be changed to require manufacturers to take greater responsibility for product safety. In the meantime, he explains, many consumer products aren't tested, adequately or frequently enough, for toxic content. In his opinion, the solution is a stronger federal policy.

"That comprehensive chemical policy would require companies to provide this kind of information about the toxic chemicals in their products, and there's legislation currently in Washington that's winding its way through committees right now, to accomplish that."

Representatives of the chemical industry have suggested they could support stricter testing and information requirements, but they have cautioned lawmakers against making dramatic changes to a law that, in their view, has worked well for the past three decades.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA