Reveals Chemicals in Pet Toys, School Supplies, Purses Reveals Chemicals in Pet Toys, School Supplies, Purses

More than 50 common purses and some 100 pet toys and accessories contain high levels of lead, and numerous school supplies are made with a wide range of chemicals of concern, according to new website

The site, launched today, was created by the Michigan-based Ecology Center, which also runs, and lists the amount of lead, mercury, chlorine (PVC), bromine and arsenic found in more than 900 school supplies, purses, car seats, automobiles and pet products.

The chemicals have been linked to a range of reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, liver toxicity and cancer, and federal laws and voluntary business initiatives have targeted reducing some of their use in kid's toys and electronics goods.

Despite all the attention given to lead and chemicals in children's products over the past years, said research director Jeff Gearhart, "We are still universally finding elevated levels of (chemicals of concern) in consumer products."

One quarter of the 400 pet beds, chew toys, collars and leashes were found to contain lead, and about 28 items had more than 300 parts per million (ppm) of lead, the current U.S. limit for lead in children's products.

About 90 percent of the 60-plus backpacks, pencil cases, binders, lunchboxes and other school supplies contained one or more of the chemicals of concern, with many containing PVC and 22 percent containing lead.

Lead was also found in 75 percent of the 100 women's handbags that were tested. Sixty-four percent had more than 300 ppm of lead, and more than half of them had more than 1,000 ppm of lead.

Seeing high levels of chemicals is so many products and places is a concern due to the overall exposure that can happen, especially the exposure that children can receive.

The Ecology Center is hoping the testing and information will spur reform in the U.S.'s Toxic Substances Control Act to phase out dangerous chemicals.

As the group's tests show, there are products in every category that are made without the chemicals of concern, showing that alternatives and safer materials exist.

Electronics companies, for example, have made great strides in eliminating brominated flame retardants and phthalates, a chemical used to make flexible plastics like PVC.

"The cost of making these changes retroactively is much more expensive than doing it ahead of time," said Mark Rossi, founder of the Business-NGO Working Group for Safer Chemicals and Sustainable Materials.

The group's car database, which has been growing for a couple years, has now tested nearly 700 new and used vehicles, and this year was the first time U.S. vehicles, General Motors' Pontiac G5 and Chevrolet Cobalt, were the best overall vehicles. "GM has the innovation and know-how to make healthier vehicles," Gearhart said.

But vehicles that performed less well had chemical amounts anywhere from 5-10 times higher than amounts typically found in homes and offices.

Products were tested using an XRF analyzer, a device the Ecology Center has used in its previous tests for automobiles, kid's toys and car seats.

While the majority of the products that were tested were produced overseas, the testing has found that some products made in North America contain just as high levels of chemicals of concern as some products made overseas.