• Detox Your Dorm

    The problem: Dorm rooms are usually small spaces with a lot of furnishings, electronics, and other items that may contain flame retardants, highly fluorinated chemicals, phthalates, and other chemicals of concern. What you can do:   Detox Your Dorm! Follow our summary of tips on how to keep a toxic-free dorm room.

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  • tip_best

    Looking Your Best

    The problem: Cosmetics and personal care products such as moisturizers, shampoos, makeup, sunscreens, hair styling gels, and shaving products, routinely contain parabens — a class of chemicals commonly used as a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria and increase the product's shelf life. However, parabens have been shown to interfere with the body's hormones. Some parabens can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. What you can do: Avoid cosmetics and personal care products that list parabens as ingredients. Instead, look for products labeled “paraben-free.” Keep in mind that products often contain a mixture of several different kinds of parabens and the chemicals are not always listed as an ingredient. You can learn more about the safety of cosmetics and personal care products by visiting Campaign for Safe Cosmetics or the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database.

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  • tip_first_responders

    Protecting First Responders

    By reducing exposure to toxic flame retardants on campus, universities and colleges can also protect first responders. During a fire, firefighters breathe in a soup of toxic chemicals and are routinely exposed to high levels of flame retardants. Read More

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  • tip_purchasing

    Change Your Purchasing Practices

    Every day, more and more organizations are switching to flame retardant-free furniture. Universities and colleges have enormous purchasing power and can help fuel this growing demand for flame retardant-free furniture. Thanks to new flammability standards, a number of leading furniture companies have stopped including these toxic chemicals in upholstered furniture. In fact, many manufacturers welcome the changes in demand since adding flame retardant chemicals to furniture can limit product design, reduce the furniture's longevity, and add substantial cost to production. What you can do: Chances are much of the older furniture on your campus contains flame retardants. So when it's time to replace furniture, ask for flame retardant-free products. Learn about the terms of your school's furniture contracts, the different vendors and manufacturers listed, and which of these companies offers school furnishings free of flame retardants. Silent Spring Institute has been working with college campuses to move toward flame retardant-free furniture. If you need additional support beyond this webpage, please contact us. To learn more about flame retardant-free furniture, visit the Center for Environmental Health, which keeps track of furniture companies that are making the switch.

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  • tip_fire

    Understand Your Fire Code

    As of January 1st 2014, consumers have the option of buying furniture free of flame retardant chemicals thanks to a new flammability standard in California called TB117-2013. The new standard, which replaces the outdated California standard called TB117, does not require the use of flame retardants in furniture. The policy change was spurred by public outcry over the toxicity of these chemicals and their lack of fire safety benefits. Since then, a number of states have begun transitioning to the new standard. Historically, the nationwide practice of adding flame retardant chemicals to furniture stems from TB117, first implemented in 1975. Because California represents such a large market, TB117 became the de facto standard for manufacturers across the United States and Canada. TB117 was ineffective and unnecessarily exposed people to chemicals that affect health. Smoking bans, declining smoking rates, and the increased use of smoke detectors and sprinkler systems have significantly decreased the potential for fire over the years. What you can do: Consult with your campus fire safety official to learn about how your campus can buy flame retardant-free while still meeting local fire code. To find out more about flame retardants and flammability standards, visit the Green Science Policy Institute.

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  • no_health_risks

    Know the Health Risks

    Flame retardant chemicals, which can be found in a variety of consumer products, including upholstered furniture, textiles, and electronic devices, can be hazardous to human health. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, decreased brain functioning, and thyroid abnormalities. Originally, manufacturers added the chemicals to furniture with the intent of lowering the risk of fire. Yet, research shows the chemicals do little, if anything, to protect people from fires. Instead, the use of smoke detectors and sprinkler systems combined with smoking bans and a decrease in smoking habits over the years have had a far more dramatic impact on reducing fire risk. What you can do: Reach out to members of your faculty who have expertise in environmental and public health, toxicology, green chemistry, or other related areas to better understand the health risks associated with the use of flame retardants.

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  • tip_flame

    Flame Retardants Feeling the Heat

    The problem: Toxic flame retardants are found in a variety of consumer products, including upholstered furniture, textiles, and many electronic devices. Read More

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  • foul_fragrances

    Foul Fragrances

    The problem: Fragrances are often added to products such as perfume, scented candles, air fresheners, and dryer sheets to create a desired scent, or even to mask other scents. Read More

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  • detergent feature

    Dirty Detergents

    The problem: Cleaning products are a source of exposure to toxic chemicals. Studies have shown that alkylphenols, a family of chemicals used as surfactants in detergents, disinfectants, and surface cleaners, are abundant indoors. Widespread exposure to alkylphenols is concerning because the chemicals are known to mimic the natural hormone estrogen. What you can do: Avoid cleaning products that list alkylphenols on their labels. Try not to use commercial fabric softeners, which often contain undisclosed chemicals and harmful fragrances. Instead, go natural. Soften your clothes by adding a cup of baking soda to your clothes in the washing machine or a ½ cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle or fabric softener dispenser in the washing machine. Choose cleaning products made with plant-based or natural ingredients, and clean with microfiber cloths or damp rags to reduce your reliance on cleaning products altogether. Reusable cloths and damp rags lift dirt, grease, and dust. What's more, they're machine washable and can last several years.

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  • tip_plastics

    Plastics: Handle with Care

    The problem: Plastics commonly used in food packaging can leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into food and beverages. Read More

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