Study Finds Hazardous Chemicals in Holiday Garlands

by | Dec 9, 2013

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Beaded holiday garlands from CVS, Walgreens, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target and Walmart contain hazardous chemicals, according to research by the Ecology Center.

The Ann Arbor-based nonprofit tested 106 beaded products, including 19 beaded holiday garlands from the six national retailers as well as 87 previously used Mardi Gras beads from New Orleans for substances that have been linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.

Researchers found about 74 percent (14 of 19) of the beaded garlands had brominated flame retardants while about 42 percent (eight of 19) had chlorinated flame retardants. More than two thirds (12 of 19) of the beaded garlands had levels of lead exceeding 100 ppm, which is the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) federal safety limit for lead in children’s products.

The Mardi Gras beads contained similar chemical makeups. Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s principle researcher, estimates that a single year’s inventory of Mardi Gras beads may contain up to 900,000 pounds of hazardous flame retardants and 10,000 pounds of lead.

The study is a collaboration between, a project of the Ecology Center, and VerdiGras, a New Orleans nonprofit that aims to green Mardi Gras.

The study comes two months after the California’s Safer Consumer Products initiative goes into effect. Under the program, the state will ask manufacturers to investigate the feasibility of replacing toxic chemicals in their goods, starting with five priority products to be identified by April. Many companies, such as Procter & Gamble and Walmart, have already announced plans to eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products nationwide.



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