Toxic Chemicals Found in Infant and Toddler Products

A new study of products designed for infants and toddlers found they contain multiple toxic chemical flame retardants.

The peer-reviewed report, published in Environmental Science & Technology Journal, states that polyurethane foam in items like car seats, breast feeding pillows, changing pads and bassinet mattresses contain some of the most dangerous chemicals on the market. 

Four products contained penta-BDE, a substance so toxic it is banned in 172 countries and 12 U.S. states.

29 products contained TDCPP or chlorinated Tris, a possible human carcinogen that was removed from children’s pajamas over health concerns in the late 1970s. In animal studies,  chlorinated Tris has been associated with cancer of the liver, kidney, brain and testis, among other harmful effects.

14 products contained TCEP, a carcinogenic flame retardant on California’s Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals. Laboratory animal studies show TCEP causes tumors in the kidney and thyroid glands. In other laboratory animal studies, TCEP has been shown to cause reductions in fertility and poor sperm quality and interferes with brain signaling, causing hyperactivity. TCEP is no longer produced in Europe and has been identified by Canada as posing a risk to human health.

These hazardous substances are not regulated under current federal chemicals policy – the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. However, the pending "Safe Chemicals Act of 2011" would overhaul this law and ensure that these toxic chemicals are phased out and replaced with safe alternatives.

The proposed legislation designates chemicals that persist in the environment and build up in people’s blood and tissue as "Priority 1" chemicals. EPA would be required to identify chemicals with these properties and restrict their use to the maximum extent feasible. The flame retardants studied would clearly meet the criteria, according to advocacy group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

"These are the worst kind of chemicals, and they are a potent symbol of the complete breakdown in chemical management in this country," said Andy Igrejas, Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. "You bring them into your home hidden in consumer products that seem benign. But they get out of products and into your bloodstream where they begin to damage your health. The government doesn’t do anything about it and that needs to change."

Stronger electrical codes and modernized building and fire codes, as well as increased use of smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, and self-extinguishing cigarettes, will all continue to help prevent fires without using toxic chemicals, the group says. These measures, plus an overall decrease in cigarette smoking in the U.S., have helped reduce fire deaths by 60% since 1980, making use of chemical flame retardants unwise and unnecessary.

A report released earlier this month found that federal chemical policy reform would create sustainable jobs in the U.S. chemical industry while protecting public health and the environment.

Public Health Groups Deliver Over 70,000 Signatures

Today the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition is meeting with White House officials to urge President Obama to take action on the Presidential Cancer Panel report he requested a year ago, but has yet to take action on. 

The strongly-worded report confirmed that toxic chemicals are a grossly underestimated risk factor for cancer.

The Panel urged the President to use the power of his office to "remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water and air that needlessly increase healthcare costs cripple our nations productivity and devastate American lives."

Today, the Coalition is presenting the White House with a petition signed by over 70,000 people from every state in the nation urging the President to make cancer prevention a priority.

"The links between chemical pollutants and cancer simply can’t be ignored," says Kathryn Gilje, Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network. "The evidence is just too strong, and lives across the country are at stake. We call on White House officials to get to work now on the Panel’s key recommendation: a national cancer prevention plan."

The chemicals of concern are in our agricultural fields, on our food and in commonly used products including clothing, household cleaners and plastics used by children, women, and men on a daily basis.

Cancer takes a devastating toll on individuals and families:

  • 1.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2009.
  • More children are getting cancer than ever before.
  • One in 5 Americans can expect to die from cancer.

Representatives from these groups are meeting with the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Public Engagement: American Nurses Association, Breast Cancer Fund, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, League of Conservation Voters, MomsRising, Pesticide Action Network, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.

"The chemical industry continues to exploit regulatory weakness by introducing chemicals into the environment that have not been proven to be safe," says Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition.  "Pregnant women have been found to carry toxic chemicals in their bodies, which leads to babies being born with a burden of chemicals over which they had no control. The majority of Americans are unaware of the dangers of chemical exposure in their daily lives."

Read the petition:

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