Toxic Chemical and Product Safety News for Investors

Headline stories are selected by IEHN staff from environmentalhealthnews.com's "Above the Fold" daily news service. IEHN releases annotated versions several times monthly. Headlines listed here are linked to their original sources and are subject to those sources' archiving policies.

January 31, 2009

Investors urge President Obama to restore shareholder rights and advance corporate responsibility, as a new congressional audit finds that the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to assess toxic chemicals is as broken as the nation's financial markets, requiring a total overhaul. A US insurance company has decided to exclude nanotubes and nanoparticles from its coverage. Experts note that this represents the increasing concern among insurers about the emerging risks of nanotechnology. Best Buy institutes an electronics recycling program in all of its stores nationwide. Researchers find trace amounts of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup, a ubiquitously used sweetener. Mercury is a known neurotoxin. A new study in California indicates that environmental exposures, rather than an increase in diagnoses, are probably to blame for the sevenfold rise in autism since 1990.

SIF Urges Obama To Advance Shareholder Rights
Financial Advisor Magazine
January 29, 2009

President-elect Obama should move swiftly to restore shareholder rights and to advance corporate responsibility regarding CEO pay, global warming, the current financial crisis and other matters, according to a statement issued today by the 500-member Social Investment Forum (SIF), the U.S. membership association for socially and environmentally responsible investment professionals and institutions.

Insurers scrutinize nanotechnology
Environmental Science and Technology
January 29, 2009

On September 24, 2008, the U.S. insurance company Continental Wester Group (CWG) issued a statement noting that it would exclude nanotubes and nanotechnology from its coverage. The statement has since disappeared from the CWG website, and fears of similar decisions by other insurance companies are as yet unrealized. But although CWG’s decision to exclude nanotechnology was criticized by many as hasty and ill-informed, experts note that it represents the increasing concern among insurers about the emerging risks of nanotechnology. “Nanotechnology is a big problem because the technology is moving much faster, as we all know, than information on health and environmental safety,” says Robert Blaunstein of Nanotechnology Risk Management, a firm that advises industries, insurers, and investors on how to best manage the risks of nanotechnology.

Best Buy launches electronics recycling program
MSN Money
January 29, 2009

Best Buy Co., Inc. will bring its electronics recycling program Feb. 15, 2009 to all of its 1,006 stores nationwide. The recycling program is the latest addition to the comprehensive programs offered by Best Buy to help consumers find easy ways to recycle, reuse, or trade in products at the end of their life. "Greener Together" is a new way of thinking at Best Buy: make smarter decisions about technology, and consume less energy in the process. Through Greener Together, Best Buy will help customers choose electronics and appliances wisely and use them more efficiently, plus find easy ways to recycle, reuse, or trade in products at the end of their life.

Mercury in corn syrup? Food made with ingredient may have traces of toxic metal
Chicago Tribune
January 27, 2009

A swig of soda or a bite of a candy bar might be sweet, but a new study suggests that food made with corn syrup also could be delivering tiny doses of toxic mercury. For the first time, researchers say they have detected traces of the silvery metal in samples of high-fructose corn syrup, a widely used sweetener that has replaced sugar in many processed foods. The source of the metal appears to be caustic soda and hydrochloric acid, which manufacturers of corn syrup use to help convert corn kernels into the food additive.

EPA a failure on chemicals, audit finds
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January 24, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency's ability to assess toxic chemicals is as broken as the nation's financial markets and needs a total overhaul, a congressional audit has found.

Autism epidemic not caused by shifts in diagnoses; environmental factors likely
Environmental Health News
January 9, 2009

Changes in doctors' diagnoses cannot explain the sevenfold increase in autism since 1990, a new California study shows. Environmental factors are probably to blame.

January 12, 2009

The new year brings a new set of regulations governing the amount of lead allowed in products marketed to children. This important protective standard may have a negative impact on cottage industries and second hand stores, because the law requires manufacturers to prove that their products are safe. A new study indicates that levels of the plastics chemical bisphenol-A are 11 times higher in babies´bodies than adults. The US FDA has recently agreed to reconsider its stance on the toxicity of this compound, after its own advisory board raised questions as to the adequacy of previous reports. Hospitals and other businesses are switching to "green" cleaning products, but the issue of "greenwashing" (marketing a product as environmentally friendly, when it is in fact toxic) continues to be an issue. California continues to pursue green chemistry, and has unveiled a set of six steps to promote the use of safer chemicals. Questions remain as to the environmental health impact of the emerging field of nanotechnology. A new report reveals that a small fraction of these companies have environmental, health, and safety practices.

Study finds lack of environmental health and safety info for nanotech companies
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
December 17, 2009

A recent study by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) found health and safety information lacking for San Francisco Bay Area nanotechnology companies. SVTC surveyed 129 Bay Area nanotechnology companies believed to import, manufacture or deal with nanomaterials on their health and safety practices. Only three of the 28 companies that publicly state to use nanomaterials confirmed to have some type of environmental, health and safety practices. Most of the companies had limited monitoring practices or did not respond to the survey.

It may market organic alternatives, but is your cleaner really greener?
New York Times
January 12, 2009

In New York and around the country, dry-cleaning stores have increasingly sprouted signs reading 'organic' or 'green,' but sometimes the cleaning methods are anything but.

Study predicts BPA in babies 11 times higher than adults
Environmental Health News
January 12, 2009

Using a mathematical model based on enzymatic differences between newborns and adults, scientists estimate that the amount of bisphenol A (BPA) circulating in the blood of babies is more than 11 times higher than the amount in adult blood.The striking disparity is most likely due to natural differences in metabolism and body size between babies and adults. This study points to the need for chemical exposure standards to better incorporate differences in vulnerabilities between children and adults.

Hospitals go for a greener clean
Environment Report
January 12, 2009

The places that need to be the cleanest, the most sterilized, are finding that green cleaners are more effective than regular ones. Hospitals have started replacing the old chemical cleaners with natural products.

New toy-safety laws are no game for toymakers
Star Tribune
January 10, 2009

Federal legislation passed in response to recalls of millions of toys over the past two years could have the unintended consequence of imposing unaffordable costs on independent, cottage-industry toymakers. Already struggling through a punishing recession, those toymakers may be hard-pressed to manage the new costs. The law, championed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar after the death of a Minnesota toddler who swallowed a Chinese-made charm composed almost entirely of lead, goes into effect Feb. 10. Among other things, it sets strict limits for lead in any toy or children's product sold after that date. It forces manufacturers to prove that each product line, new or existing, is in compliance.

Is your sofa toxic? Switch to eco-furniture.
January 5, 2009

Like most choices we make, the furniture that fills our home not only affects our comfort levels, but also has an impact on the environment and our health. There are many good reasons to seek out green furniture: Keeping excessive manufacturing waste out of landfills; saving endangered forests; and improving indoor air quality by reducing the use of toxic chemicals are a few of the big ones.

Lead in toys is target of warning-label law
Chicago Tribune
December 24, 2008

Toys and other children's products containing small amounts of lead will be required to have a warning label about the potentially toxic substance under a measure Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed Tuesday, giving Illinois what advocates say is one of the strongest protection laws in the country. The measure focuses on three areas viewed as among the most problematic: children's jewelry, toys with surface paint and baby items. State law already bans the sale of toys with more than 600 parts per million of lead, and the new measure is aimed at informing parents about smaller, legal traces of lead that health officials warn still could be dangerous.

F.D.A. to reconsider plastic bottle risk
New York Times
December 24, 2008

Weeks after its own advisory board accused the FDA of failing to adequately consider research about the dangers of bisphenol-A in plastic baby bottles, food containers and metal can linings, the agency has agreed to reconsider the issue.

California unveils six-step strategy to promote green chemistry
Health News
December 17, 2008

California officials today unveiled a six-step strategy to promote use of safer, sustainable chemicals and wean the state's industries and consumers off toxic compounds.