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Toxins From Recycled Items Could Find Their Way Into Commonly Used Goods, Experts Warn

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Most of us recycle, and that's a good thing since those items are then used in the manufacturing of new products.

But as CBS2's Dana Tyler found out, some toxic chemicals are also getting a second life in the process.

Other than the feel and maybe the thickness, you probably wouldn't give your toilet paper too much thought. But maybe you should, says Mike Schade from the organization Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

"As companies and government agencies promote recycling, it can be a double-edged sword that we're beginning to see really dangerous chemicals ending up in products that they were never meant to be used in the first place," he said.

Chemicals like Bisphenol A, which doctors have been warning about for years.

"BPA is an environmental toxin, it's referred to as an endocrine disruptor," researcher Dr. Katherine Rakowski said. "In other words, your hormonal system in your body."

Several studies have linked BPA to a growing number of health concerns, prompting manufacturers to remove it from certain products like baby bottles, toys, and some food containers.

It is, however, still widely used in the production of thermal paper products like retail receipts and lottery tickets.

"You put it in your wallet, it ends up in a recycling plant," Schade said.

Now, it's being reintroduced in a handful of new personal care products such as recycled toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels, and napkins.

"There are also other chemicals that are intentionally added that are of concern," Schade said.

Chemicals like formaldehyde, used to prevent paper from degrading, and chlorine dioxide, used as a bleaching agent.

It's not just limited to paper products. Studies show when electronics are recycled, dangerous chemicals like flame retardants can unintentionally end up in items like food spatulas.

The Environmental Protection Agency says concentrations of these chemicals are so small, consumers shouldn't worry.

"We're not saying that using any one of these products in a single instance is going to cause a problem," Schade said.

The bigger concern, Schade says, is prolonged exposure over time.

So what can you do to keep your family safe?

Schade suggests reading product labels and researching how your favorite brand is made on the company's website.

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