A recent study of chemical hazards in picnic products reportedly found that out of 58 products tested, almost all of them (96 percent) contained “at least one or more” purportedly toxic chemicals, such as phthalates, mercury, lead, and arsenic, and more than one third (36 percent) contained three or more chemicals of concern. Conducted by environmental advocacy group the Ecology Center, the study examined tablecloths, placemats, picnic baskets, coolers, water toys, folding chairs, and umbrellas purchased from eight of the nation’s top 10 retailers. The products were tested for chemicals based on their “toxicity or tendency to build up in people and the environment.”

Of particular concern were the levels of phthalates—chemicals used to soften pvc products—found in vinyl tablecloths, vinyl-coated fabric chairs, water toys, and hoses and which purportedly contain endocrine-disrupting properties. “While indoor exposure to phthalates is the most critical source of exposure, outdoor products can release phthalates when stored indoors and increase overall phthalate release in the environment,” said Ecology Center lead researcher Jeff Gearhart. “These chemicals have become ubiquitous environmental contaminants and have been associated with a number of adverse health effects.” The Ecology Center has partnered with the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a national coalition of individuals, health professionals, environmentalists, businesses, and reproductive health advocates to persuade retailers to remove toxic-chemical containing products from stores. See Ecology Center News Release, August 8, 2013.