Poison in Paint, Toxics in Toys

Media Contacts


Madison, WI – A report released today identifies for the first time more than 650 brand name products that contain two hormone-disrupting toxic chemicals.  Based on new industry data, the report names plastic toys, such as PLAYMOBIL play figures and Chicco baby rattles, as containing BPA (or bisphenol A), the same toxic chemical already banned in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups.  The report revealed another toxic ingredient, known as NPEs, in nearly 300 household paints, as well as several cleaners, wood finishes and home maintenance products.

The report, Poison in Paint, Toxics in Toys, summarizes the first chemical use reports submitted by product manufacturers under a new state chemical safety law passed in Maine.  Similar state laws go into effect in Washington and California next year, and are pending in other states, as Congress lags behind in reforming the federal Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. 

“Toxic chemicals have no place being in children’s products,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director.  “Most importantly, we should require manufacturers use safer alternatives to toxic chemicals, but at the very least, Wisconsin consumers deserve the same information as consumers in other states.  Parents have the right to know if they are exposing their children to toxic chemicals in toys, household cleaning products, and other consumer items.”

“In the absence of federal leadership, state policies are the best way to identify chemicals in products,” said Mike Belliveau, lead report author and executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center based in Portland, Maine. “Now government can make better decisions to restrict toxic chemicals and industry leaders can switch to safer substitutes, just like the infant formula makers who recently ended their use of BPA in metal cans.”

“As a new mom, I’m relieved to finally get some information I can use as a consumer to protect the health of my baby,” said Hannah Pingree, the former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives who sponsored the 2008 Maine law known as the Kid Safe Products Act.  “But why are these chemicals still used in everyday products, and what other chemicals aren’t they telling us about?” she asked.

“The report reveals a badly broken federal safety system that allows widespread use of toxic chemicals and keeps us in the dark about chemical hazards,” said Andy Igrejas, national campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.  “Until Congress passes the Safe Chemicals Act, we’re dependent on states like Maine, Washington and California to lead on safer chemical reform.”

Twenty-five manufacturers reported on priority chemical use in consumer products to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.  For a full searchable listing of every brand name product reported to contain BPA or NPEs, visit www.HealthyStuff.org. 

Studies have shown that BPA and NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) mimic the sex hormone estrogen.  BPA harms brain development, behavior and the prostate gland, among many other adverse health effects.  NPEs are highly toxic to aquatic life, degrade into a long-lived chemical that builds up in the food chain, and may harm reproduction and development in humans.  Aggregate exposure to BPA and NPEs from all sources threatens the health of children, workers and the environment.

More and more states are enacting laws to protect the health of American families from toxic chemicals in response to the failure of the obsolete federal chemical safety system to protect public health and the environment.  In the last decade, 18 states have passed more than 70 laws to ban chemicals in products or create new chemical management programs at the state level.  Under Maine’s Kid Safe Products Act, manufacturers must disclose their use of priority chemicals of high concern in consumer products.  The state may then require companies to search for safer substitutes.  Priority chemicals in products may be phased out if children are exposed and safer alternatives are available, effective and affordable.

In 2010, Wisconsin passed the BPA Free Kids Act, which prohibits in Wisconsin the manufacture and sale at the wholesale level of empty baby bottles and sippy cups that contain BPA.  It also requires that these bottles and sippy cups be clearly labeled as being “BPA Free.” 

S. 847, The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey), proposes a common sense, science-based overhaul of the 35 year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has never been updated.  The Safe Chemicals Act requires chemical manufacturers to provide health information and demonstrate the safety of all chemicals, while requiring immediate action to restrict uses of the worst chemicals based on the best science.


The Environmental Health Strategy Center works in Maine and nationally as a public health organization that promotes human health and safer chemicals in a sustainable economy. (www.preventharm.org)

The State Alliance for Federal Reform (SAFER) of chemical policy, or SAFER States, is a coalition of state-based organizations championing solutions to protect public health and communities from toxic chemicals. (www.saferstates.org)

The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition represents more than 11 million individuals and includes parents, health professionals, advocates for people with learning and developmental disabilities, reproductive health advocates, environmentalists and businesses from across the nation. (www.saferchemicals.org)

WISPIRG is a statewide non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization.  www.wispirg.org.