Independent but waste colonized? An environmental look at Ghana’s 66th independence

Opinion By Eldad Kwaku Ackom, Green Africa Youth Organisation

The Green Africa Youth Organization, as part of its campaign against incineration and plastic pollution, partnered with the All-Africa Students Union (AASU) to march for climate action at Ghana’s 66th Independence anniversary celebration on 06 March 2023. Highlighting the disastrous impact of climate change on the environment and the lives of people, echoing youth’s voices in climate action, and orientating the hearts and minds of the public and elected leaders to act with urgency. This formed part of its national sensitization program for the year and was strategic to reaching various categories of stakeholders and leaders. 

On Independence Day, we reflect on the nation’s progress from the era of colonialism and what lies ahead. Generally, the focus has been on classical areas of Ghanaian History, culture and economy. However, one issue that undermines all the key areas of society deserving attention is the problem of pollution from the endemic plastic lifestyle and widespread open burning.

Contrary to the enthusiasm around independence, developed countries exporting their waste and toxic materials to developing countries like Ghana, mostly in the form of used and often broken equipment, unveils a demeaning form of colonialism which is often overlooked. Waste colonialism is a long-standing issue, typically in the case of Agbogbloshie and other dumps in Accra, climbing to the “enviable” spot of being the world’s largest e-waste dumps and a major health and environmental hazard. 

By 2018, roughly 13,000 tons of plastic waste were imported each month, mainly illegally burned. Meandering through the economy is a quick fix to various needs in society today. Despite government efforts like outlawing the import of electronic waste and working towards a ban on plastic bags, plastic waste litter our beaches, rivers, and streets, endangering the health and well-being of our communities, wildlife and ecosystems. 

It is quite ironic for any country to celebrate 66 years of independence without a robust plan to break free from plastics. 

False solutions like incineration with the alluring energy generation tag have received immense welcome. Even as Governments discuss these, the practice of burning in households, industrial facilities and even hospitals has created a sense of normalcy to the consequences on life and the environment. 

From recent media reports, emissions and airborne pollutants have aggravated respiratory conditions and other health issues. The Ghana health service can attest to the exponential cases and risks of respiratory-related instances linked to the falling ratings of the country on the air quality index.

As a duty to our heritage, we must commit to true independence by prioritizing measures to reduce plastic waste, promoting sustainable consumption patterns, implementing effective homegrown strategies, legislating a clear path to holding corporations accountable and encouraging them to take responsibility for their waste.

We must break the waste colonialism cycle and reject short-sighted solutions like incineration and instead work towards a more sustainable future for all Ghanaians and Africa at large.


UNWRAPPED es un proyecto del que GAIA ha participado activamente y que tiene como objetivo crear conciencia en todo el mundo sobre los riesgos para la salud humana que plantean los plásticos y otros materiales de envasado de alimentos. En el marco del proyecto, se desarrollaron herramientas que ilustran dichos riesgos.

Las 9 cartillas informativas que compartimos a continuación, presentan datos y cifras sobre cómo los envases desechables pueden ser perjudiciales para la salud humana. Además, hacen un llamado a que las empresas y los responsables de tomar de decisiones pongan fin a los envases de un solo uso y adopten un enfoque de precaución ante el uso de sustancias químicas nocivas que se traspasan desde los envases a los alimentos y causan graves consecuencias en la salud humana.

  1. Productos químicos peligrosos en envases de alimentos – una amenaza a la salud humana
  2. Sustancias químicas en envases de alimentos: recomendaciones políticas para proteger la salud
  3. Los envases reutilizables protegen la salud pública y el medio ambiente
  4. Amenazas contra la salud humana debido a los micro plásticos
  5. Contenido reciclado en embalajes de comida y la exposición a químicos tóxicos
  6. El Covid 19 y los envases
  7. Plásticos usados en envases de alimentos
  8. Glosario: terminología para envases de alimentos
  9. Resumen de las sustancias químicas prioritarias y de mayor preocupación

Proyecto desarrollado en colaboración entre: UPSTREAM, Zero Waste Europe, GAIA, Plastic Solutions Funds y Passport Foundation.

¿Cómo abordamos el tema en nuestra región?

En el contexto del lanzamiento del proyecto Unwrapped en América Latina y el Caribe, los días 7 y 14 de abril desarrollamos el taller “Agroecología: un camino para desplastificar nuestros alimentos”, con el  fin de conectar el envasado de alimentos y la salud con elementos de interés y culturales propios de América Latina y abrir la discusión y compartir de experiencias en temas como la búsqueda de la soberanía alimentaria, el desarrollo de estrategias como la economía de trueque, regenerativa, local, estrategias basura cero y cómo se podrían desarrollar más experiencias en esta línea.

Javier Souza, facilitador del espacio, diseñó como ejes principales 1) analizar las sustancias químicas presentes en los alimentos ya las usadas en el proceso de producción , en el empaque y aquellas que están presentes, que migran, desde los envases, 2) analizar los efectos en la salud de los contaminantes químicos utilizados en la producción agraria y los presentes en los envases frecuentemente utilizados y 3) analizar la posible sustitución/eliminación de envases y su reemplazo por envases biodegradables, entre otros. Las y los participantes discutieron sobre sistemas de trazabilidad de los alimentos, formas de recuperar conocimientos, saberes, ideas relacionadas con la producción agroecológica y la economía social y solidaria y el comercio justo.

En América Latina, el uso de envases retornables sigue siendo parte de la vida cotidiana en muchos lugares, además que una cultura de uso de productos naturales para el envasado de alimentos está arraigada en diversas culturas de la región.  Por otro lado, existe un amplio conocimiento sobre prácticas agroecológicas y un deseo generalizado de avanzar hacia una soberanía alimentaria que ponga valor en hábitos alimentarios sanos y propios de la región, así como formas locales de producción. Sin embargo, todos estos hábitos se ven profundamente amenazados por la agresiva comercialización y entrada de la industria de “usar y tirar”, asociada a alimentos procesados y a la comida rápida. 

Es urgente comunicar sobre la trazabilidad de las sustancias químicas utilizadas en los envases a lo largo de la cadena de suministro y restringir el uso de sustancias químicas peligrosas en envases en contacto con alimentos. La adopción de normativas que apoyen la transición hacia envases seguros para la salud, reutilizables y rellenables debe ir acompañada de una clara promoción hacia sistemas de producción y distribución de alimentos locales y sostenibles. 

World Health Day, Apr 7, 2021—The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, together with #breakfreefromplastic, Greeners Actions (Hong Kong), Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia, and UPSTREAM warn the public of another pandemic waiting to happen: diseases borne out of toxic chemicals present in most food packaging.

“The dramatic rise in the use of single-use plastics in food service during the pandemic has been fueled by a false  industry narrative that single-use plastics (SUPs) prevent virus transmission,” said Miriam Gordon, UPSTREAM Policy Director in a media briefing on The Unwrapped Project: Exposing the health risks of plastics + food packaging chemicals. She added, “COVID-19 research demonstrates the virus is transmitted from aerosolized droplets not by touching contaminated surfaces and the idea that plastic packaging makes us safer lacks any scientific basis.”

While SUPs are being marketed as the safer option, The Unwrapped Project is exposing that there are over 4,000 chemicals present in plastic packaging and many are known to be hazardous to human health. (1) 

In test samples from 19 locations world-wide, 93% of the bottled water samples contained micro-plastics with an average of 10.4 plastic particles per liter.  Unknown to many, micro-plastic can translocate across the gut and enter the circulatory system, accumulate in the major organs, and travel through the lymph system ending up in the liver and spleen. When inhaled micro-plastics, depending on size and shape, can travel through the respiratory system, become lodged in the lungs, and possibly translocate to other parts of the body.

“During the pandemic, we encourage people to bring their own food boxes when ordering takeaways. The risks of contracting the virus come from respiratory contact. Using SUPs does not mean you are better protected from the virus,” said Michelle Chung, Senior Project Officer and lead of the ST0P campaign at Greeners Action in Hong Kong. “With our ST0P campaign, we educate consumers and business owners (restaurants and malls) alike that there are safer options to use other than SUPs that end up in landfills.”

The health care sector is another sector that has seen an increase in single-use plastics use during the pandemic.  “While there are essential single-use plastics such as IV lines and syringes being utilized in the health care sector, there are also a number of non-essential ones like disposable utensils that the sector can start transitioning away from.. What we want is to find safer and sustainable materials, design, management or alternatives for essential plastics and a complete phase out of non-essential plastics in health care,” said Paeng Lopez, Plastics in Healthcare Project Officer and Sustainable Health in Procurement Project Philippine Coordinator at HCHW-SEA. “That said, and pursuant to our objective of a healthy recovery, we are encouraging the health care sector to begin saying no to non-essential plastics now.”

“The good news is that there are alternatives,” said Miko Alino, GAIA Asia Pacific Program Manager. “There are businesses offering SUP-free packaging all over Asia Pacific and the world. Some say those are niche businesses, but they are not. We used to bring reusables when we bought food, our parents used to bring traditional native baskets to markets. Sachets were unheard of until just a few decades ago.”

Knowing the hazards of the toxic chemicals found in plastics food packaging, the groups are calling for:

  • Making alternatives available by providing incentives to refilling stations and Zero Waste stores;
  • Guidelines on toxic-free packaging to include elimination of chemicals in food packaging;
  • A phaseout schedule for sachet use to be included in SUPs ban; and
  • Incentivize development of community-driven livelihood projects for alternative natural and local materials.


  1. According to The Unwrapped Project, over 4,000 chemicals can be present in plastic packaging and of those, 906 have been identified as likely to be present in plastic packaging with 68 chemicals particularly hazardous for the environment and 63 to human health.


The UNWRAPPED Project aims to raise awareness across the globe about the human health risks posed by plastics and food packaging materials and chemicals. All forms of single-use food and beverage packaging appear to contain health-harming chemicals that migrate into food and beverages and pose health risks. Therefore in addition to calling for an end to single-use plastic packaging that is filling the environment with large-scale to nanosized forms of plastic (polluting the air we breath, water we drink, and food we eat), The UNWRAPPED Project calls for corporate and government decision makers to take a precautionary approach to using harmful chemicals that are known to migrate out of packaging and cause human health impacts and use only chemicals and packaging materials that are proven safe.  UPSTREAM, Zero Waste Europe, and GAIA lead the work in the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific.


Sonia G. Astudillo, Asia Pacific Communications Officer, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, +63 917 5969286

Julian Carlos Cirineo, Communications and Outreach Associate, #breakfreefromplastic, +63 977 8077627

Related resources:

Por Magdalena Donoso, Coordinadora de GAIA para América Latina.

El libro “El Derecho a la salud en el oficio del reciclaje: Acciones comunitarias frente al COVID-19”, es un esfuerzo por desmantelar el miedo como motor para enfrentar la pandemia que experimenta el mundo hoy, y en particular las recicladoras y recicladores de base en Ecuador y América Latina. En sus páginas, el virus no aparece como el culpable de nuestros males. Al contrario, el COVID-19 aparece como una expresión de nuestra insana relación con la naturaleza, la que ha alterado los procesos metabólicos que se daban en armonía entre sociedad y naturaleza, y ha quebrado también las relaciones de colaboración entre los seres humanos.

En este escenario se encuentran el y la recicladora de base como parte de una población particularmente vulnerable a las múltiples dinámicas de relación que imperan hoy, donde por la forma en que este oficio se realiza, enfrentan una triple exposición: ambiental, laboral y doméstica. Así, el libro entrega información y recomendaciones exhaustivas para la promoción y prevención profundas ante el COVID-19, y ubica el monitoreo comunitario participativo (MCP) como una herramienta emancipatoria fundamental. El MCP permite la comprensión de las determinaciones estructurales del problema y posibilita un diagnóstico aterrizado para la mejor toma de decisiones, así como una evaluación posterior clara sobre el resultado de los planes de acción definidos.

Este libro nos deja al final de su relato con un llamado a la construcción de otro mundo posible, un mundo basura cero, como apuesta para la  recuperación de la circularidad en las relaciones de las sociedades y sus naturalezas, en un camino de cambio profundo en nuestra forma de extraer, producir, distribuir y consumir. En este nuevo mundo, las y los recicladores de base en su rol de ecologistas populares, reivindican a la basura no como mercancía sino como una herramienta que, limpiando y reparando el mundo, aporta al bien común y nos acerca a una realidad donde pandemias y otros profundos desequilibrios no tienen cabida.

Philippine press contact: Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, Silliman University, Dumaguete, Philippines; +63 917 778 5866;

International press contacts (see below for the full list): Dr. Jane Muncke, Food Packaging Forum, Zurich, Switzerland; +41 44 515 52 55;

Thirty-three international scientists published a consensus statement urging decision makers in government, industry and civil society to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals that are present in food packaging such as plastics. The authors work in the fields of developmental biology, endocrinology, epidemiology, toxicology, and environmental and public health, including Dr. Jorge Emmanuel of Silliman University in Dumaguete.

“In the Philippines, so much of our food is in plastic bags and plastic containers and some people even microwave food in plastics, yet many studies have shown that chemicals can migrate from plastics into food,” said Dr. Emmanuel, who specializes in environmental toxicology, public health and polymer science, among others.

“Our scientific consensus statement explains that in the U.S., about half of the nearly 12,000 chemicals allowed as food additives are food contact chemicals [FCCs] but many of them have never been tested for endocrine disruption and other hazardous properties,” he said.

Endocrine disruption is the ability of some chemicals to mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones. Endocrine disrupting chemicals have been linked with developmental malformations, reproductive problems, increased cancer risk, and changes to immune and nervous system functions.

The consensus statement also points out that in Europe, some substances that are known to cause cancer, genetic mutations, or harm to the reproductive system, are still authorized for use in food contact materials.

The consensus statement notes that hazardous chemicals that can transfer from food contact materials are associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and neurological disorders, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The issue is especially relevant for recycled materials and plastics alternatives that are being promoted as more environmentally friendly in response to plastic pollution concerns.

The peer-reviewed consensus statement is based on more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific studies and highlights seven specific areas in need of improvement, including: elimination of hazardous chemicals in food contact articles, development of safer alternatives, modernizing risk assessment, consideration of endocrine disruption, addressing mixture toxicity, improving enforcement and establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue to find practical solutions.

The consensus statement was published on March 3, 2020 in the open access journal Environmental Health.

“Virtually everyone who eats food is exposed to food contact chemicals, but some are known to be hazardous and many are untested or even completely unknown. This consensus statement is a wake-up call,” said Dr. Jane Muncke, managing director of the Food Packaging Forum and co-author of the statement.

“Chemical migration from food contact articles like packaging must be systematically addressed, and any hazardous substances removed – and not just replaced with other, less well studied chemicals that turn out to be regrettable substitutions, like BPS that replaced BPA. Getting the toxics out is essential as society moves toward a circular economy and increases the use of recycled or alternative materials,” she added.

BPA is short for bisphenol A, a chemical found in reusable water tumblers, baby bottles and other products made of polycarbonate plastic as well as in coatings of metal food cans. BPA was detected in 93% of urine samples of people six years and older by a 2004 U.S. government study. After tests with animals showed that BPA is an endocrine disruptor, manufacturers started selling “BPA free” products. However, the common BPA replacement, bisphenol S or BPS, turned out to be an endocrine disruptor also. A study in 2012 found that 81% of urine samples from Japan, U.S., China, Kuwait, Vietnam, Malaysia, India and Korea had detectable levels of the replacement BPS.

According to Dr. Emmanuel, another concern are phthalates, which are a group of chemicals added to many plastics to increase their flexibility and to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic which would otherwise be rigid. Plastics with phthalates include food packaging, toothbrushes, tablecloth, schoolbook covers, garden hoses and medical tubing. Some phthalates have been shown to affect the reproductive systems of laboratory animals, resulting in damaged sperm, abnormal development of the male reproductive tract and decreased fertility. The health effects on humans are still being studied.

The authors of the consensus statement analyzed existing lists of food contact chemicals (FCCs) issued by legislators, industry and NGOs worldwide. They found that almost 12,000 distinct chemicals are potentially in use in the manufacture of food contact materials today, and that many have not been tested adequately for toxicity.

While there is a great amount of information for some of the most well studied FCCs such as BPA and phthalates, thousands of reported FCCs lack data on their hazardous properties and/or level of human exposure – but these are critical data for determining human health risks.

Furthermore, there is an unknown, but presumably even higher number of non-intentionally added substances present in food packaging that have the potential to migrate into food, especially from recycled materials. Non-intentionally added substances refer to impurities found with the chemical additives, the results of chemical reactions during manufacturing, or chemicals produced when the additives themselves degrade.

The scientific consensus statement resulted in a Declaration of Concern and Call to Action, which as of March 4 was already signed by more than 160 organizations worldwide. The Declaration (available at calls on lawmakers to ensure full disclosure and traceability of chemicals used in packaging, to restrict the use of hazardous chemicals in food packaging, and to adopt policies that support the transition to safe, reusable and refillable packaging.

Merci Ferrer, co-convenor of War on Waste/Break Free From Plastic – Negros Oriental, one of the organizations that signed the Declaration, concluded, “With the evidence presented by the international scientists, our lawmakers and government agencies such as DOH, FDA, DENR, DOST and others should apply the precautionary principle and take action to protect our people’s health.”



Muncke J et al. (2020) “Impacts of food contact chemicals on human health: a consensus statement.” Environmental Health, available online on 3 March 2020: doi:10.1186/s12940-020-0572-5

Groh K et al. (2020) “FCCdb: Food Contact Chemicals database. v2.0.” doi:10.5281/zenodo.3240108

Declaration of Concern and Call to Action:


Jane Muncke



Food Packaging Forum Zurich, Switzerland English, German
Maricel Maffini Independent Consultant Maryland, USA English, Spanish
Olwenn Martin Brunel University London London, UK English, French
Martin Wagner Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim, Norway English, German
Jorge Emmanuel

Phone: +639177785866

Silliman University Dumaguete City, Philippines English, Filipino
Angel Nadal IDiBE and CIBERDEM, Universitas Miguel Hernandez Elche, Spain English, Spanish
Pete Myers Environmental Health Sciences, and Carnegie Mellon University Virginia, USA English
Arturo Castillo Castillo Imperial College London, UK English, Spanish
Bethanie Carney Almroth University of Gothenburg Gothenburg, Sweden English, Swedish
Konrad Grob Retired from Official Food Control Authority of Zurich Zurich, Switzerland English, German
Anne-Marie Vinggaard Danish Technical University Copenhagen, Denmark English
Nicolas Olea University of Grenada Grenada, Spain English, Spanish
Tracey Woodruff


+1 (415) 624-9959

University of California at San Francisco San Francisco, California, USA English
Frank von Hippel Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, Arizona, USA English


Scientific Consensus on Chemicals in Food Packaging Leads Environmental and Public Health Groups Around the World to Declare Global Health Threat

Groups call for policymakers to protect families’ health by phasing out toxic chemicals from food packaging and mandating safe, reusable alternatives 


Today, nearly 200 environmental and public health organizations led by the UNWRAPPED Project (UPSTREAM, Zero Waste Europe, and GAIA) released a Call to Action in response to a just released peer-reviewed Consensus Statement signed by 33 world-renowned scientists warning chemicals used in single-use plastic and food packaging represents a significant threat to human and planetary health – particularly the health of children.

The Consensus statement clearly states the facts:

  • Approximately 12,000 chemicals are intentionally used in packaging and other forms of food contact materials
  • An enormous body of research – over 1200 studies- shows that these chemicals migrate from packaging into food and beverages
  • Amongst those chemicals, many have been proven hazardous for human health: exposure may lead to cancer, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, genotoxicity, chronic diseases (such as atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases), and autoimmune diseases
  • Many of these chemicals are never tested for human health effects
  • For most of these chemicals, their presence is undisclosed 

Many of those chemicals, including phthalates, bisphenols and PFAs, are used in single-use packaging, made of plastic but also paper & board. The lack of disclosure by producers regarding chemicals used in packaging means that the risks associated with the use of those packaging cannot can’t be evaluated. Consumers and regulators aren’t the only ones in the dark– many packaging producers and waste managers are unaware of the chemicals present in the packaging they process, and possibly recycle in other products.

In response, nearly 200 organisations signed a Call to Action, demanding that regulators and industry protect public health and the environment by acting to:

  • Ensure that all chemicals used in food packaging are fully traced and disclosed 
  • Eliminate harmful chemicals in all food packaging and prevent regrettable substitutions 
  • Adopt policies that support the transition towards safe, reusable, and refillable packaging

The Call to Action is launched globally with dedicated media events in the United States (Click here to attend the telepresser on March 3, 7am EST) and Asia Pacific (Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Taiwan, and the Philippines).  

In Asia Pacific, Beau Baconguis, Regional Plastics Campaigner, stated: “Our communities are a rich resource of traditional materials, practices and systems that worked without exposing the consumer to the toxic chemicals that came with plastic food packaging. We got sidetracked for a few decades by the plastic packaging industry. It’s time to reject this plastic packaged food culture and reclaim and, if necessary, update and scaleup on the sensible, safe alternatives we used to have.”  

In Europe Justine Maillot, Consumption and Production Campaigner at Zero Waste Europe commented: “Our current system of production and distribution of food and its packaging puts at risk the health of people, who don’t even have access to information on the chemicals present in food packaging. Regulators must take immediate measures to eliminate hazardous chemicals from food packaging, and ensure a transition to make it  toxic-free and reusable. This is urgently needed to protect both human health and the environment, and allow a clean circular economy.” 

In the U.S.,  Linda Birnbaum, former Director of the NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program commented: Families want to put food on the table that supports their children’s health and wellbeing. But it’s next to impossible to find options that aren’t wrapped in food packaging containing chemicals that represent a significant threat to human health. Current safety evaluations fail to consider impacts of very low dose exposures on the endocrine system and this puts children at the greatest risk of harm.”

Read the Call to Action (spanish and mandarin versions available)

Read the Scientific Consensus Statement 


Press Contacts: 

Europe: Agnese Marcon, Communications Coordinator, Zero Waste Europe & Rethink Plastic Alliance, 

+32 (0) 456 078 038

U.S.: Claire Arkin, Communications Coordinator, GAIA

+1 510 883 9490

Asia: Sonia G. Astudillo, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific

+63 917 5969286


 GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) is a worldwide alliance of grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals whose mission is to catalyze a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. 

UPSTREAM works with businesses, schools, and communities to transition to a throw-away-free culture. We have launched campaigns across the country to make single-use history and “indisposable” the new norm.

Zero Waste Europe is the European network of communities, local leaders, businesses, experts, and change agents working towards the elimination of waste in our society.

We empower communities to redesign their relationship with resources, and to adopt smarter lifestyles and sustainable consumption patterns in line with a circular economy.

What’s a consumer to do when carpets– even those with the most “environmentally friendly” certifications– are shown to contain toxic chemicals that could threaten your and your family’s health?

Toxics and recycling policy expert Miriam Gordon warns of the dangerous substances hidden in the carpets we walk on every day, and a way forward for a toxic-free carpet industry.

Earlier this year, my friend Jody asked me what carpet she should buy for her house. She knows that I’ve been working with GAIA to advocate for the increased recycling of carpet so she figured I might know something. She wanted carpet that is environmentally friendly. To her, that meant recycled but she also wanted something safe.

At a local carpet store in San Francisco, a salesperson recommended AirOTM carpet from Mohawk because it is highly recyclable and it had been certified as a green product. Unlike other carpets where the face fibers and backing are made of different materials, the face and backing of this carpet are made from PET that can be recycled back into carpet. From an environmental perspective, this is kind of the GOLD standard. Carpet-to-carpet recycling is what we in the waste biz call “closed loop recycling.” It means not using virgin plastics to make carpet, but recycling the carpet back into the carpet. This is exactly what a circular economy would look like in the carpet industry.

I told her that I thought the idea of the AirOTM carpet is pretty great from a recycling perspective, but I had no idea what chemicals are in it, so I didn’t know if it was safe. That’s the problem. No one knows what chemicals are in the carpets our babies crawl on, the carpet in our bedrooms where we sleep all night long, the carpet in our office environments, and the carpets in the schools that our kids spend all day long being exposed to.

Today, as we release the results of our investigation into the hidden chemicals in some of the most popular brands in the U.S. and some with the biggest environmental claims, I can begin to answer my friend Jody’s question.  “Testing for Toxic Carpets”,a collaboration with our partners Changing Markets Foundation and the Ecology Center, examines the toxic threat posed by popular products sold by the six largest carpet manufacturers in the U.S.  The investigation reveals that half of these carpets contained a wide array of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of chemicals that are used to make products grease or stain resistant,waterproof, or non-stick. The well studied PFAS chemicals are linked to testicular and kidney cancer, liver malfunction, thyroid disruption, obesity, and low birth weight and size, among other impacts.

About half of the carpets tested contained a wide array of phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors. That means that they interfere with our hormones and can cause a wide range of health problems, even at very low levels. Phthalates are used to make the plastic yarn fibers more pliable, and are an additive in the PVC used in carpet backing.

Sorry to say, Jody’s AirOTM carpet by Mohawk had two types of PFAS in the face fiber and bromine and antimony (ingredients in highly toxic flame retardant treatments) in the backing. And like almost all the carpets that were tested, this one had GreenLabel Plus certification on it that misleads consumers into thinking its safe and environmentally friendly.

But there is one silver lining– it turns out it is possible to provide consumers with high quality carpet without toxic chemicals.  Two of the carpets tested, (Shaw’s Patcraft Diverge and Tarkett’s Tandus Centiva Construct) had stain resistant design without any of the PFAS toxics . Instead of relying on these dangerous chemicals to provide the stain-resistant effect, they used a type of nylon yarn that is tightly wound to repel water and grease.

We know that there’s a better way to make carpets that don’t expose our families to toxic chemicals. It’s time for U.S. carpet manufacturers to show us that they take our health seriously.