GREEN SPACE: Ecology Center launches to spell out toxins in everyday items

Since 2006, the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center has compiled information about toxic chemicals hidden in infant car seats and toys as well as vehicles. A couple of weeks ago, the organization launched, which expands its purview to any and all consumer goods including apparel, accessories, and pet supplies, with plans to add in building materials and mattresses in the near future.

Healthy Stuff aims to educate consumers and manufacturers, according to campaign coordinator Jeff Gearheart. "Consumers increasingly want information on what's in the products they buy," he says. "And we hope that by shining a bright light on products that manufacturers will pay more attention to these issues."

A third and no less important audience are policy makers. "We ultimately need to move towards a system (where consumers) have access to the same kind of information that you can get when you buy your corn flakes," says Gearheart. "We need to have a regulatory system in place that truly regulates chemicals and products in a way that's healthy for the environment, healthy for humans, healthy for pets."

The Ecology Center is part of a national movement to reform the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA, pronounced tosca); Gearheart expects a bill to be introduced this fall that will amend and reauthorize TSCA and will "bring it into this century (by taking) a more modern approach to regulating chemicals."

Healthy Stuff's launch has also launched Ecology Center into the national fray. Because a hand-held X-ray fluorescent (XRF) reader is used to test the elemental composition of materials, very quick readings are possible. Translation? If a small toy has six colors of plastic, Healthy Stuff can get readings for all six. This expanded scope means that the research compiled on the site reaches -- and impacts -- a wide audience. "There are an increased number of supporters, of folks that know about the Ecology Center," says Gearheart. "There are tens of thousands of folks now connected to the Ecology Center (through Healthy Stuff)."

Source: Jeff Gearheart, Ecology Center

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.