‘Hidden hazards in the nursery’

New report: Toxic flame-retardants found in 85 percent of baby products tested, including some in Michigan

Many popular baby products, including nursing pillows and car seats, contain toxic flame-retardants linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and other negative health effects, according to a new report released today in Seattle.

Two of the products tested, both car seats, were bought in Michigan by the Ecology Center, the Ann Arbor-based environmental organization. Both were found to include the toxic chemicals.

“Children and families should not be exposed to these compounds, called Tris chemicals, which can escape from household items and contaminate house dust and indoor air,” according to Rebecca Meuninck, environmental health campaign director for the Ecology Center. “Toxic flame retardants have no business being in products we bring into our homes, especially in items for kids who are more vulnerable to chemical exposures.”

The report, Hidden Hazards In the Nursery, found toxic flame retardants in 17 out of 20 of new baby and children’s products tested, including bassinet pads, nursing pillows, changing pads, and car seats. The study was conducted by the Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States, non-profit public health advocacy groups.

The most prevalent flame retardant--found in 16 of the 20 products tested--was chlorinated Tris (TDCPP), a chemical voluntarily removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s when it was found to cause adverse health effects. California recently classified chlorinated Tris as a carcinogen, and evidence links the chemical to neurotoxicity as well as hormone disruption.

This new research is a follow-up to consumer product testing on similar products performed by Healthystuff.org, a consumer product testing project of the Ecology Center. This research showed the widespread presence of hazardous flame retardants in children’s products containing polyurethane foam. The HealthyStuff.org database contains consumer product ratings for hundreds of products, including children’s car seat and baby products. 

“Parents shouldn’t have to worry about hidden toxic chemicals in their child’s nursing pillow or car seat,” said Erika Schreder, science director for the Washington Toxics Coalition and author of the report. “Unfortunately, our testing shows many items contain toxic flame retardants.”

The fact that four of the children’s products tested did not contain Tris shows it is possible to make flame-retardant products without it. “Protecting people from fire is critical, but we can do it without exposing children to chemicals that harm their health,” Meuninck said.

In the last 10 years, 18 states have passed more than 70 laws to protect public health from harmful chemicals, partly in response to long-overdue action on the federal level. In Michigan in December, Sen. Rebekah Warren introduced the Safe Children’s Product Act, legislation that will give families the information they need to avoid children’s products that contain harmful chemicals.

In Congress last year, Sen. Frank Lautenberg introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 as an overhaul of the 35-year old Toxic Substances Control Act. The proposed law would ensure that chemical companies provide full information on health and safety before a chemical is allowed on the market, and preserve the rights of states to protect their residents with stronger standards.

For more information, contact: Rebecca Meuninck, 734-369-9278, 734-276-8005 (cell), rebecca@ecocenter.org; Terry Gallagher, 734-369-9267; terry@ecocenter.org

Published on January 11, 2012