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Toxic Stock Syndrome: How Corporate Financial Reports Fail to Apprise Investors of the Risks of Product Recalls and Toxic Liabilities

Sanford Lewis, Esq. with Richard Liroff, Ph.D., Margaret Byrne, M.S., Mary S. Booth, Ph.D. and Bill Baue
April 2008

Based on IEHN’s review of SEC filings, including detailed analysis of numerous individual company annual reports for 2006 and 2007, this report demonstrates that sectors affected by product toxicity risks are doing a poor job of informing shareholders of market risks they face due to toxic chemicals in their products.
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Key findings include:

Most US importers of goods to Europe are failing to disclose impacts of new European REACH law. Among 10 chemical company filings reviewed in detail, none provide quantitative data on the numbers of their products or proportions of sales that may be locked out of European markets under new, stringent chemical authorization requirements.

Nondisclosure of Emerging Hazards. Companies are not disclosing to shareholders the potential for their products to cause or exacerbate asthma. Manufacturers are not disclosing the evidence of health risks of nanotechnology products, nor the lack of adequate product testing prior to their sales, even though some of these products, known as nanotubes, have been found by scientists to resemble asbestos fibers in structure and respiratory health effects.

Toy makers did not disclose what they knew about lead paint risks. Prior to 2007’s recalls of leaded toys, neither Mattel nor Thomas the Tank manufacturer RC2 warned investors of a tide of Chinese product recalls dating back as far as 2001.

The biggest producers of bisphenol A, used in baby and sport bottles, were silent on the rising number of laboratory studies signaling potential human health risks. In 2008, growing numbers of retailers in Canada pulled these products from their shelves and US retailers increased offergins of BPA-free alternatives.