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March Badness – How toxic is your university fan gear?

It’s March and if you live in a college town like I do, that means one thing… MARCH MADNESS!!! This season, is taking a look into the hazardous chemicals in our favorite University Themed products. We found some pretty nasty stuff in our favorite fan gear, that’s why we’re releasing our “March Badness” study today.

We started with nineteen Universities in the running for MTP or Most Toxic Product. On Wednesday, our supporters will choose one of four teams, Duke University, Minnesota University, Texas University and Oregon State University, to be the last team in the Shameful Sixteen. The people will decide which team will make the final cut. Check out our results and choose who should advance to the Shameful Sixteen. Don’t delay! The MTP brackets lay out the toxicity rating of common gear fans buy to support their team from t-shirts, lunch bags and foldable chairs to flags and banners.

We were disappointed that a lot of the items available at the nation’s Top Ten Retailers were full of toxics! For example, the Michigan State University Seat Cushion we brought at Kroger, the University of Florida Lunch Bag and University of Central Florida Car Mat, both from Walmart, contained both lead and phthalates. We think the only unhealthy things college basketball fans should be exposed to are beer, pizza and nacho cheese. Yet, this popular college gear contains phthalates banned by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and levels of lead that exceed CPSC regulation in children’s products.  The seat cushion you sit on, the jersey you wear and that koozie that keeps your drink cool might contain harmful chemicals that are linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity, and cancer.

Many of the chemicals we found in the study contain chemicals of concern identified as Hazardous 100+ chemicals. and our partners in the Mind the Store Campaign are asking the Top Ten Retailers to stop playing dirty by getting toxic chemicals out of the product on their store shelves.

Join us in asking them to clean up their act. If you’re interested in finding out where your favorite college team stands in terms of its toxic gear, check out’s ranking here. Rebecca Meuninck is the Environmental Health Campaign Director for the Ecology Center.

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