Easy Info Source for Products You Buy for Your Kids, Your Pets and Yourself
The Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental research organization, has announced the results of product testing and the creation of a website HealthyStuff.org to help consumers make choices and encourage support for controls on the toxins in everyday products.
For example, out of 100 women's handbags tested, over half contained more than 1,000ppm (0.1%) of lead, a neurotoxin that builds up in the environment. But we can hear you thinking: you've heard it all before, about so many products....why should you bookmark HealthyStuff? Whether you are lured by the good reasons or by the interesting trivia below, we suggest you at least take a look.
Of Widgets and Weightings
Two major factors stand out when reviewing databases of chemical hazard information. The first is accessibility: is the site easy to use, and understandable to the layperson? The second is methodology: are the recommendations made based on a reasonable, scientific method?
A Tech-Savvy Site
The success of a website will rise and fall with the usability. Here HealthyStuff stands out. Data can be accessed in many different views, all of which are easy to find. Quick-clicks lead to overviews like the "Best & Worst Picks." A drop-down surfs you straight to the product type that interests you: toys, cars, apparel & accessories, children's products or pets are there so far. Users can search for products or view lists by brand or product type or level of concern.
A really nice feature: MyList. Users can mark items of interest and maintain a list of these for reference. HealthyStuff also offers Widgets. Whether with mobile phone access or flash apps, HealthyStuff obviously has some tech-savvy folks at the helm. After all, what good is a database for consumer choice if you cannot consult it in the aisle at the local market?
A Transparent Method
The methodology used to collect the chemical data on HealthyStuff is well-described. Two ratings methods were developed, to allow product comparisons where possible and to give raw data rankings where comparison is not easy. For the comparison method, the rankings take into account the probability of exposure as well as the level of toxin detected. The rationale for each level of concern is clearly described.
Test My Stuff
HealthyStuff plans to grow their database and solicits input from registered users, who can nominate or vote for the stuff they want to see tested. Registration requires only your name, email address and postal code. International users are not blocked, although the postal codes will probably throw HealthyStuff stats for a loop.
A few gems we noted in passing:
- Tennis balls designed for tennis had no detectable lead, while tennis balls sold as pet toys often contain lead (almost half of tennis balls tested contain lead)
- Levels of some chemicals found in vehicles are 5-10 times higher than in homes or offices. Since the average American spends more than 1.5 hours in their car every day, this can be a major source of toxic chemical exposure.
- There are healthy car seats without chemicals of concern.
The Active Option
Sites like HealthyStuff lead to better products simply by giving consumers the information they need to make a choice. As the manufacturers' with poorly rated products notice sales falling, they will start making better products. But for people who want to ensure a mandated level of protection, links to the SaferChemicals campaign will get you involved.
It can be argued that the mere detectability of toxins in everyday products is not itself proof of a health hazard. But the first principle of sustainability is prevention. If a better product is available, the use of the technologies that put that product on the market will help avoid toxins being distributed into use....and eventually into the environment. Knowledge is power.
If any argument can be made against HealthyStuff, it is only this: we need more. These toxins are a great start. May your database grow.
More on Toxins and Control:
REACH for Greener Chemistry
EU Prioritizes First Set of Chemicals for Ban Under Strict New REACH Law
Green Electronics First in Europe, Now in China. Where is the USA?
Why Second Hand is Healthier for Your Baby