Toxic Influence

Chemicals in contention: a glossary

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 

Some of the chemicals in contention and where you'll find them:

BPA – Bisphenol A is a chemical widely used in consumer goods, among them: the linings of most cans used for many food and drinks; products made from polycarbonate plastics, which include water bottles and baby bottles; and dental sealants. It is under review by the Food and Drug Administration and subject to an Environmental Protection Agency “Action Plan.” Congressional moves to ban or restrict it have so far been unsuccessful. 

Formaldehyde – This chemical is used in glues and adhesives; as a preservative in some paints and coating products; and even to make fabrics wrinkle resistant. But according to EPA, “The most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely to be pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins.” Among those are particleboard; hardwood plywood paneling; and medium-density fiberboard, used for drawer fronts, cabinets and furniture tops. “Medium-density fiberboard contains a higher resin-to-wood ratio than any other UF pressed wood product and is generally recognized as being the highest formaldehyde-emitting pressed wood product,” notes EPA.

Nanoscale Titanium Dioxide — This is found in sunscreens and in cosmetics that include sun protection.

Pesticides, fumigants and herbicides — Atrazine is often used as a weed killer for crops, especially corn. MIDAS, the substitute for Methyl bromide, is being used in some states as a fumigant for strawberry crops, and is awaiting approval in California.

Phthalates — These are used to make vinyl flexible to use in consumer goods such as plastic containers. They are also found in personal care products, such as perfumes, lotions and nail polish.

Triclosan — Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical used in many toothpastes, dishsoaps and antibacterial soaps, as well as products like odor-free socks. The names to look for are: Triclosan or Microban. FDA and EPA have reviews under way.

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Sheila Kaplan