Tablets for children include toxic chemicals

Coalition calls for state action to protect children

Lead, PVC, and hazardous flame retardants have been found in some of the most popular electronic tablets for children, according to a study released last week by HealthyStuff.org, a project of the Ecology Center.

The study comes out just as many families are buying electronic devices for their children for holiday gifts.

One hundred and three samples were taken from four tablets, which were disassembled and analyzed using X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) technology. The four tablets were the LeapFrog LeadPad 2 Explorer, Fuhu Nabi Jr., Kurio touch 4S and the VTech InnoTab 3.

All of the tablets contained at least one of following hazardous chemicals: lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants - BFRs), or chlorine (PVC). (Full test results are available at HealthyStuff.org.) The circuit boards of all four tablets had bromine levels above 10,000 parts per million, probably from brominated flame retardants. The Vtech InnoTab 3 ranked as the overall most toxic tablet due to the presence of multiple chemicals of concern.

Hazardous chemicals present dangers throughout a product’s life cycle, including when the minerals are extracted; when they are processed; during manufacturing; and at the end of the tablet’s useful life.

“Harmful chemicals do not belong in consumer products, but we should be particularly careful with children’s products,” according to Rebecca Meuninck, environmental health campaign director for the Ecology Center and Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health.

“We need to protect children and families in the communities where these products are made and in the communities where they the products are disposed of. Families would like choose alternative products without toxic chemicals but right now we don’t have access to enough information on the chemicals found in the products we buy for our kids."

When the tablets were compared to a HealthyStuff.org 2012 study that examined toxic chemicals in 38 mobile phones, the tablets tested 50 percent more hazardous.

Many electronics manufacturers have been taking steps to clean up their products, including:

  • Using less-hazardous resins, including thermoplastic copolymers and polyamide to replace PVC in cabling and other applications
  • Avoiding the need for cabling through simplified design
  • Using mercury-free LCD displays and arsenic-free glass
  • Using bromine- and chlorine-free printed circuit board laminates; and
  • Moving to less toxic, reactive phosphorous-based flame retardants.

This study and others like it have led a coalition of health professional, health-affected, environmental, and faith-based organizations to call on Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to take action on chemicals that pose the greatest dangers to children’s health.

During Snyder’s 2010 campaign, he said, “Michigan needs to be proactive in safeguarding our children and families against toxic chemicals in products . . . and Michigan’s website should report risk assessments, provide information regarding potential hazards, and educate citizens about recommended alternatives that will best protect their families.”

The coalition is asking Snyder to direct state agencies to create a list of chemicals of greatest concern to children when found in consumer products, and urge that manufacturers of children’s products voluntarily reformulate or disclose whether their products contain those chemicals. These actions are already taking place in other states, demonstrating the effectiveness of the approach.

“We look forward to working with the Snyder administration to move a safe children’s products initiative forward in the New Year,” Meuninck said.

EcoLink — December 2013
An online publication of the Ecology Center

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IMPORTANT NOTE: HealthyStuff.org ratings do not provide a measure of health risk or chemical exposure associated with any individual product, or any individual element or related chemical.