Toxic Flame Retardants Found in 80% of Baby Products
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2012
Eighty percent of baby products contain toxic or untested chemical flame retardants, according to a new study of products such as car seats, changing pads and portable cribs.
Four brands — BabyLuxe Organic, Baby Bjorn, Orbit Baby and Boppy — say their products meet California’s standards.
One-third of products, which also included nursing pillows, contained a chemical called chlorinated tris, which was removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s because of cancer concerns, though the chemical was never banned, says a study released Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology.
The Environmental Protection Agency has said there is a “moderate level of concern” about links between tris and cancer, developmental problems, reproductive problems and other health concerns. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also has found that tris “may pose a significant health risk,” spokesman Scott Wolfson says.
Another flame retardant, called TCEP, was found in 10 of the nursing pillows tested. California lists TCEP as a carcinogen.
Toddlers have levels of flame retardants in their bodies three times higher than adults, says Sonya Lunder, a scientist with the Environmental Working Group. That’s partly because kids spend so much time on the floor, where chemicals can accumulate in household dust, and because they frequently put their fingers in their mouths, the study says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found flame retardants in the bodies of 90% of Americans.
The chemicals are an inexpensive way for manufacturers to comply with California’s strict fire safety standard, Lunder says. Because California is such a large market, many manufacturers design all their products to comply with its standards. Companies aren’t required to label products containing flame retardants, Lunder says.
Others say the new study may overstate the risks.
“Flame retardants are well-studied and provide important fire safety benefits in homes, cars and public areas,” the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, says in a statement. Manufacturers’ “dual objectives” are to use “the safest possible chemistry to protect families by preventing fires from starting and limiting the spread of fires once ignited.”
Gordon Nelson, a professor of chemistry at the Florida Institute of Technology, notes that some of the baby products tested were purchased in 2002, before a common type of flame retardant was phased out. That chemical, PentaBDE, is no longer used in new products.
Last year, California also exempted strollers, infant carriers and nursing pillows from its fire safety standard, Nelson says.
So baby products might appear safer if researchers were to test only products currently sold in stores, Nelson says.
Four brands — BabyLuxe Organic, Baby Bjorn, Orbit Baby and Boppy — say their products meet California’s standards without chemical flame retardants, according to a buyer’s guide issued with the study.