Toxic-Free Future’s research looks at how toxic chemicals are impacting our lives to demonstrate the problem and provide solutions. Our research on toxic chemicals covers topics from toxic flame retardants in the air we breathe, cadmium in kids’ jewelry, to phthalates in laundry rinse water.

Read our latest research on chemicals in products, people, and environment below.

Chemicals in Products

Take Out Toxics: PFAS Chemicals in Food Packaging (2018)
Grocery store takeout is a convenient way to get dinner on the table. But it shouldn’t come with harmful nonstick PFAS chemicals. Our new study, conducted with Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, looks at the extent to which five of the nation’s largest grocery store chains are using and selling PFAS-containing food packaging, including containers, wrappers, and other food packages.

Toxic Flame Retardants in Nap Mats (2018)
Childcare centers that use foam nap mats can have higher levels of cancer-causing flame retardants in their dust. Children are exposed to the chemicals when they breathe or ingest the dust. We wondered whether it was possible to reduce kids’ exposures to toxic flame retardants in childcares. Our new study answers this question with a resounding YES and provides a clear solution for reducing these chemicals not only in childcares, but in schools, homes, and workplaces too.

PFASs in Popcorn Bags and Pizza Boxes (2018)
Popcorn is the quintessential American snack. Watching a movie? Kids want a snack? Get hungry at work? Turns out that microwave popcorn bags pose a threat to our health. Unlike popcorn bags, pizza boxes do not appear to widely contain PFAS chemicals. Find out what this means for alternatives to PFAS.

TV Reality: Toxic Flame Retardants in TVs (2017)
It’s common knowledge that watching too much TV isn’t great for your health. But did you know that TVs could be bad for your health in a new and unexpected way? In a new study coauthored with Clean Production Action, we found that TVs continue to contain toxic flame retardants that can escape the TV and contaminate house dust in homes.

Hiding In Plain Sight: Toxic Flame Retardants and Home Furniture (2016)
As more and more shoppers demand products without toxic flame retardants, several furniture manufacturers and retailers have announced they are no longer using toxic flame retardants in their products. Yet we discovered that 44% of home furniture surveyed in major furniture stores contained, or was likely to contain, toxic flame retardants.

Fred Meyer Dishes Up Formaldehyde In Kids’ Dishes (2015)
Our analysis of Fred Meyer’s own chemical reports revealed the company is selling kids’ products containing toxic chemicals, including dishware with formaldehyde, baby clothing with antimony, toys with phthalates, and personal care products with parabens.

What’s On Your List? Toxic Chemicals in Your Shopping Cart (2014)
This study looks at harmful chemicals in children’s products reported by makers of those products to the Washington Department of Ecology through September 2013. All health effects information given in What’s On Your List? is based on information compiled by Washington’s Department of Health to create the reporting list of Chemicals of High Concern to Children.

Toxic Flame Retardants in Day Care Nap Mats (2013)
This study revealed children’s nap mats purchased in Washington state, and used in daycares, contain harmful flame retardant chemicals. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, impacts on fertility and reproductive health, allergies, hormone disruption, and other serious health problems.

Chemicals Revealed: Over 5,000 Kids’ Products Contain Toxic Chemicals (2013)
Makers of children’s products reported more than 5,000 instances of products containing toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive problems, according to reports filed with the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). In 2013, they reported using a total of 41 chemicals identified as a concern for children’s health, including toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury, and antimony, and organic compounds such as phthalates. Major manufacturers who reported using the chemicals in their products include Walmart, Gap, Gymboree, Hallmark, and H & M.

Walmart – Get the Lead Out! (2013)
Testing of Walmart jewelry products revealed that Walmart was selling products with extremely high levels of lead, known to be toxic to the developing brain.

Hidden Hazards in the Nursery (2012)
This study collected and tested popular baby products, including nursing pillows and car seats, for toxic flame retardants. Our research found the vast majority contain these toxic flame retardants linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and other health effects.

Something Smells: What Tween Perfume Makers Should Tell You, But Don’t (2012)
In this study, we found that some children’s perfume and body sprays contained phthalates, yet these companies were not complying with the state law requiring them to report the presence of these chemicals to the Department of Ecology and the public.

On the Money (2010)
This study investigated the extent to which thermal receipt paper containing BPA has permeated the market, and whether this hormone-disrupting chemical is escaping onto the money that lies close to these receipts in people’s wallets.

Not So Squeaky Clean (2007)
TFF bought toys from common retailers and tested them for phthalates. This study revealed that many of the toys contained phthalates, in some at levels approaching 50%.

Chemicals in People

ONGOING: Seeking Participants for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Kids Study (2019)
Are you breastfeeding or pregnant with your first child? You may be eligible to take part in the Healthy Moms, Healthy Kids study. This study will test breastmilk to look for toxic chemicals such as flame retardants and nonstick PFAS chemicals. Adults and children can be exposed to many toxic chemicals from consumer products like electronics, building materials, and furniture.

Earliest Exposures (2009)
We tested nine pregnant women, from Washington, Oregon, and California, for chemicals including bisphenol A, phthalates, mercury, and “Teflon chemicals.” The first-of-its kind study tested blood and urine from pregnant women during their second trimester of pregnancy and found their bodies contaminated with chemicals from a wide variety of consumer products.

Pollution in People (2005)
Ten Washington residents agreed to testing of their hair, blood, and urine for the presence of toxic chemicals as part of an investigative study by the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition. The Coalition wanted to know which chemicals were getting into our bodies, and at what levels, to better understand the potential harm posed by poor regulation of chemicals, and to develop better solutions.

Chemicals in the Environment

Something’s in the Air (2015)
We recruited 10 prominent Washington residents—elected officials, members of the media, a firefighter, a social services leader, and environmental experts—and asked them to collect a personal air sample to measure the flame retardants in the air they breathe. The results of this testing show us we can’t avoid exposure to dangerous flame retardants: we take them in through life’s most basic act, breathing.

Homes to Waters (2014)
This peer-reviewed first of its kind study uncovered how flame retardants used in products in homes accumulate on clothing, contaminate laundry wastewater, and pass through wastewater treatment plants to pollute rivers and other waters.

Puget Sound Down the Drain (2009)
This study demonstrates for the first time that house dust contaminated with chemicals from everyday consumer products is hitchhiking on our clothes and heading down the drain to Puget Sound via washing machine rinse water and sewage treatment plants.