Backpacks, lunchboxes, welcome mats, sofas, flooring, mattresses, and garden hoses – just some of the products the government would need to approve before they could be sold to consumers. This inevitably onerous process would push every item through an FDA-like gauntlet before hitting the shelves. This may seem Orwellian in nature, but it’s the reality that Project TENDR wants for America.

Project TENDR, an acronym for Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks, says we need to “overhaul” how chemicals are reviewed, calling on regulators to “follow scientific guidance” and for businesses to eliminate products they don’t approve of. What types of products? Everything from high chairs to fragrant personal care products to fireplaces would be up for inspection.

The folks at TENDR even list “cooking fumes from stoves and grills” in the same category as tobacco smoke – since “all contain hazardous air pollutants.” The definition of what would be considered “safe” would be so absurdly restrictive that fewer and fewer products would be brought to market – including safe products that can bring added conveniences and comfort to our everyday lives.

Why did Project TENDR come together? For a noble cause: to protect children. But asking – expecting – the country to be consumers of only natural or organic materials is not only overbearing, but costly and unrealistic.  Today, people are living longer, healthier lives – thanks in large measure to many innovative materials used to make a host of safe products that have been studied extensively and available in the marketplace for decades.

A look at TENDR’s participant list may explain its radical positions. It includes agenda-driven advocates known for their extreme bias – and fundraising-motivated campaigns. Representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) – staunch ideological critics of the chemical industry – are proudly listed. 

Copying the playbook of fellow alarmists Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Oz, the Project couldn’t resist the ultimate way to scare parents – raising fear over Autism: “In a large Swedish population-based study the presence of PVC flooring in the parents’ bedroom, which is a known source of phthalate exposure, was associated with autism.” One study, based in Sweden, in the presence of PVC flooring (and numerous other household items and environmental factors) showed an association? How is that proof of anything?

We’ll take it a few steps further … Where is the science here? What controls were established to demonstrate study credibility? What was the study’s sample size, and can proper scientific conclusions be drawn from it? Was the study peer reviewed by objective researchers – or published in a reputable journal? And why haven’t these results been validated by any other studies?

Groups like TENDR often avoid these questions because the answers frequently contradict their world-view.  They expect us to head for the hills based on the questionable findings of one junk science study – the very definition of irresponsibility in its truest form.

TENDR promotes a number of health scares by a host of groups that have been “fundraising fear” for years.  These include, among others, the dangers of consuming non-organic foods, promoted by the elitists at The Environmental Working Group, a group with an extensive track record of deceiving consumers through the use of junk science – dating back as far as the 1990s. And NRDC, whose efforts to raise money and spread fear over its long-standing campaign against mercury and seafood are well documented.

Consider TENDR’s funders, too. One sponsor, the Passport Foundation, is a major supporter of NRDC – to the tune of $100,000 in 2015. Passport also gives to Sustainable Markets Foundation, which in turn supports Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF) – an alarmist group with an entrenched record of unwavering opposition against the vinyl industry.  Passport gives to another project donor, John Merck Fund, another supporter of SCHF.

Of course, when TENDR launched, most reporters blindly promoted its point-of-view without ever questioning the impact of its policies, or the motives of the organizations that support its agenda. The New York Times, surprisingly, was one of the only outlets to reach out for a quote from those with opposing views – but even its coverage was still heavily weighted in favor of TENDR’s mission.  Across the board, journalists failed to balance their stories with an objective examination of the organization’s credibility, and the consequences of its policy positions.

Which is why we will continue to publicly confront TENDR’s dishonest statements – and hold reporters who cover it accountable to their own journalism standards – to enforce a more balanced conversation about this organization moving forward.