Parents Need Information to Protect Their Kids

New Report Documents Dangerous Chemicals in Baby Products

October 15, 2008 by Jane Sheppard Leave a Comment

Parents Need Information to Protect Their Kids

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Toxic chemicals can be found in common baby products, according to a new report released today by U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “The Right Start: The Need to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals from Baby Products,” documents toxic chemicals, including phthalates and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in teethers, bath books, and sleep accessories.

“We need to eliminate toxic chemicals from baby products to give our children the right start,” said U.S. PIRG Environmental Health advocate Meghan Purvis. “Our government should give parents the information they need to adequately protect their children from toxic chemicals, and ultimately remove toxic chemicals from children’s products.”

U.S. PIRG and Environment California tested seven infant sleep accessories, such as mattress pads and sleep wedges, for the presence of PBDEs or toxic flame retardants, and eighteen other children’s products, such as bath books and teethers, for the presence of a set of chemicals known as phthalates. U.S. PIRG found that:

• Three of the seven infant sleep accessories tested contained toxic flame retardants in the foam materials. For example, the Leachco Sleep ‘n Secure 3-in-1 Infant Sleep Positioner, and the First Years’ Air Flow Sleep Positioner contained these chemicals.

• Fifteen of the eighteen bath books, teethers, bath toys and other products tested for phthalates contained these chemicals in their materials. For example, a teether made by Gund contained DBP, a type of phthalate classified as a reproductive toxicant and banned in the European Union.

• One product– Sassy’s “Who Loves Baby? Photo Book”– was labeled “phthalate-free.” U.S. PIRG’s research discovered two types of phthalates, DEHP and DBP, in this product. These two chemicals are banned in children’s products in the European Union.

U.S. PIRG released this report today as part of a nationwide effort to draw attention to the problem of toxic chemicals in baby products. More than 20 state PIRGs and Environment groups released this report.

“Normal brain development is impaired by exposure to toxins, such as flame retardants and phthalates, often resulting in learning and other developmental disabilities. There is an immense disconnect and unacceptable delay between scientific data and public awareness and prevention,” said Dr. Larry Silver, past president of the Learning Disabilities Association of America and current Clinical Professor at Georgetown Medical Center. “PIRG’s report is a giant step in helping parents become better informed consumers so they can protect their children’s health in the future.”

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are a set of chemicals used to slow the spread of fire. These chemicals have been linked to a host of health concerns, including impaired learning and memory, reproductive defects, cancer, and impaired immune systems. In addition, levels of these chemicals found in the breast milk of American women and some fetuses are approaching levels shown to impair learning and cause behavior problems in mice. Two of these chemicals have been banned in nine states, and the federal government has taken action to stop new production of these chemicals. However, the federal government still allows importation of products containing these chemicals.

Phthalates are a family of chemicals used in many plastic products to improve flexibility and in personal care products to bind fragrance to the product. These chemicals have been linked to premature birth, reproductive defects, and early onset of puberty. People are exposed to phthalates through everyday contact with household and personal care products, as well as through contact with indoor air and dust. The European Union has imposed a ban on three types of phthalates in all children’s products, and has banned three other types from use in mouthing products marketed for children under three.

In the absence of government information and protection, U.S. PIRG recommended that parents avoid allowing children to put polyvinylchloride (PVC) plastic toys in their mouths, instead using glass containers for food and drink storage when possible. In washing plastic products, parents were advised to avoid harsh dishwashing soap and hot water, both of which speed up the leaching process. See tip sheet for more information.

“Parents cannot be expected to deal with these issues on their own,” said Meghan Purvis. “The U.S. government must act to assist parents and ensure that products on the market are not potentially harmful for children.”

State governments are already acting to protect their citizens. Nine states have phased out two types of flame retardants from consumer products, and the California legislature is considering a proposal to ban phthalates and another chemical, bisphenol-A, from children’s products.

U.S. PIRG called on the U.S. government to:

• Phase out the most dangerous chemicals, particularly from children’s products. Until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acts, U.S. PIRG called on state governments to fill the regulatory gap and support policies to phase out potentially hazardous chemicals as well.

• Reform U.S. chemicals policy to ensure that manufacturers and industrial users provide the public with adequate information about their products. U.S. PIRG called on Senators to cosponsor the Kid Safe Chemicals Act (S. 1391), which was introduced earlier this year.

• The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should protect consumers from dangerous products by requiring labels on products that contain potentially hazardous chemicals, and then requiring manufacturers to remove chemicals that pose a particular threat to fetuses, infants, and children.