Are there toxic chemicals in your child’s raincoat? New testing coordinated by CHEJ found elevated levels of phthalates in a Spongebob Squarepants vinyl rain poncho, at levels nearly seven times above the federal safety standard.   

I recently purchased the Spongebob Squarepants vinyl rain poncho at Toys R Us’ flagship store in Times Square, NYC and sent it off to a lab for testing.

The lab found the Spongebob vinyl poncho contained 6,600 parts per million (ppm) of the phthalate Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP).  This phthalate is widely considered to be among the most toxic of all phthalates on the market. Not only does the poncho contain one of the most toxic phthalates, it was found at very high levels.

The amount in the Spongebob Squarepants poncho is nearly seven times greater than the level considered safe by the Consumer Safety Product Commission.  While phthalates have been banned in toys, they remain permitted in products like rain ponchos and children’s school supplies.

Low levels of lead were also detected in the raincoat. Ugh, I know.

The lab also found the product contained high levels of chlorine, indicating the raincoat is made out of vinyl (PVC) plastic, the most toxic plastic for children’s health. We call it the “poison plastic”. 

These chemicals have no place in our children’s products – they have been linked to asthma, developmental and reproductive harm. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time toxic chemicals have been found lurking in children’s raincoats. Last year, we found high levels of phthalates in 75% of school supplies we tested.

The new testing was funded by concerned parents through an innovative crowdfunding campaign CHEJ conducted on Indiegogo. Parents across the country provided the funding that enabled us to do the testing.

Toxic ponchos underscore need for REAL federal chemical reform

The brand new test results were released in late October at the DC Stroller Brigade, which featured parents and children from around the country at a news conference and rally at the federal Capitol. Families then met with their US senators to urge federal reform. The vinyl ponchos were used at both the press conference and in meetings with US Senators to highlight the problem of unregulated dangerous chemicals in children’s products.

We have the right to know what’s in our products.

The results were also released by our partners at the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Maine, who held a news conference releasing the results to build support for forthcoming Maine legislation that would require disclosure of phthalates in consumer products. The proposed legislation would provide parents the right to know about toxic phthalates in consumer products. Watch a TV segment on their release.

Phthalates found in vinyl flooring, dumbbells and earphones

In addition to the testing we conducted, our partners at Healthystuff.org recently screened a variety of products for phthalates and also released the data in conjunction with the DC Stroller Brigade. These products were purchased from 9 retailers including the Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., Dunham’s Sports, Home Depot, K-Mart, Lowes, MC Sports, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart. The products range from household, kitchen and office supplies to children’s products and exercise equipment.

Healthy Stuff found:
  • 3lb Dumbbells by Empower sold at MC Sports had 41% DEHP;
  • Earphones sold at the Dollar Tree Stores had 30% DEHP and .04% DBP;
  • Royelle Sheffley vinyl flooring by Armstrong sold at Home Depot had 7%  BBP, .01%  DBP, .02% DINP;
  • Sentinel Stone vinyl flooring by Armstrong sold at Home Depot had 7% BBP, .01 % DBP, and 14% DINP.

This comes after yet another new study found phthalates in vinyl flooring linked to asthma. Thankfully safer alternatives are available for homes, schools, and hospitals.

It’s time for a common sense solution!

It doesn’t have to be this way! Toxic chemicals linked to asthma and birth defects have no place in our homes or schools. Join me and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Campaign in fighting back against these poison plastic products!

We need your help now, more than ever. A bill before the Senate, in its current form, doesn’t adequately protect children, pregnant women and hot spot communities from toxic chemical pollution.  Your Senators need to know that you support REAL reform in Washington.