‘Tis the Season to be SHOPPING! A Photojournalist’s Day in the Life of the CEH Research Team

Black Friday has come and passed, and this year I made absolutely no effort to get out there and wait in line for my own personal wants and desires.  And with me, when a deal hits the shelves that looks appetizing, my mouth waters at the prospect of saving money.

But I didn’t need to spend more time in big box stores, since I’m already “shopped out” this season with the recent push that the CEH Research team has made – not to save money – but to save consumers from products that can cause severe health issues. Specifically, baby products tainted with flame retardants.

Most recently we’ve been looking at a lot of products that contain a particular hidden chemical: a toxic flame retardant called chlorinated Tris (or sometimes just Tris). Most recently Tris has been in the news because a study last week found it was the most common flame retardant chemical found in couches nationwide.

But Tris isn’t only found in couches.


Here are some of the baby and kids’ products we found tainted with Tris. What’s shocking is that Tris was banned from kids’ pajamas in the mid-1970’s. Since Tris can be present in couches and all of these products, children and families are exposed to this cancer-causing chemical that can also cause hormone disruption, developmental toxicity, and other health problems — without actually protecting children from fires.

California recently added Tris to the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer. Our Research Team has spent the past few weeks focusing on eliminating health threats to Tris from kids’ products, which meant spending a lot of time in the stores!

.  First, Ryan and I visited  Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and the result was as follows:

Chaotic, right?  Never before has the Research team been confronted with items so big, that we had to shop in pairs to physically be able to cart everything we wanted to test to the register, and then to the truck, and back to the office.  With three carts, Ryan and I had to form a little caravan throughout the store to prevent us from smashing into mid-aisle displays and causing even more havoc.

Next stop: Target.  Part 1.

And I say Part 1 because Ryan and I, again, were defeated by the massive amounts of items that contain polyurethane foam. We filled the carts so easily that we couldn’t even fit everything we wanted.

We had one last hope – we had to bring in our secret weapon:  MAGGIE – a.k.a. slayer of lead in purses, handbags, and other fashion accessories.

The first time in history that all three Research Assistants had to join forces and unite under a common goal.  We were able to transport a truckload of products back to the office.   With our powers combined, we transformed a clean, quiet West Wing of CEH into this:

The items pictured above constituted our “queue,” or waiting room for items to be screened by our X-ray Flourescence Analyzer (XRF) for chlorine.  We then sent them off to an independent laboratory to test for Tris. You can see the results here. Stay tuned for more information from the three hunters. 

In meantime, let us hunt some Orc! (I mean Tris).