Every baby deserves healthy gear

New report finds problems on Babies”R”Us shelves as buybuy BABY continues to lead

6 October 2015


Organizations in the Getting Ready for Baby campaign released a new report highlighting outdated, potentially toxic products sold by Babies"R"Us.  "Every Baby Deserves Healthy Gear" identified two changing pads, and four mattresses for portable cribs and bassinets that failed the campaign's screen for chemicals used as flame retardants. Five of the six products were sold under the Babies"R"Us brand. Thus far, the company has declined to respond to advocates for safer products. By contrast, buybuy BABY and parent company Bed Bath and Beyond have told vendors they will not sell products that contain any of seven toxic flame retardants.


Chemicals used as flame retardants can pose significant harm to children - particularly affecting their ability to learn.  These toxic chemicals have also been linked to cancer, infertility, hormone disruption and harm to fetal development. Studies have found at least one toxic flame retardant in mothers and toddlers, with toddlers having up to five times the levels of their mother.  


Across the country, parents and advocates took the report to Babies"R"Us stores to ask store managers to be partners in transforming the company. 


“Retailers can play a key role in protecting kids’ health from the effects of toxic chemicals, because they decide what products they sell. They must use this power to ensure only the safest materials are used for infants, toddlers, and children,” said Bobbi Chase Wilding, report author and Getting Ready for Baby campaign coordinator at Clean and Healthy New York. “Babies”R”Us is lagging woefully behind. It’s time for them to make sure that every baby gets healthy gear, and the company is a partner to parents by keeping toxics off their store shelves.”


“The science is clear: flame retardant chemicals can harm brain development, and have no business being in baby products,” said Tracy Gregoire from the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine who also has a child with autism. “Prenatal exposure to these dangerous chemicals may result in long-term consequences, including lower IQ levels, as well as learning and behavioral problems. In particular, brominated flame retardants are so toxic that they are on the “top 10” list of chemicals in consumer products linked to autism and learning disabilities. It's time Babies"R"Us showed its leadership by ending the sale of foam products made with toxic flame retardants. Safer products are out there. All families should have access."


Clean and Healthy New York tested items purchased from Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont using an X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzer (XRF.) Products failed the screen for flame retardants if they contained chlorine and bore a label identifying them as complying with the outdated California Technical Bulletin 117 (TB-117). 


Last week, the Endocrine Society issued an update to their position on environmental chemicals, and media reports included this quote: “The evidence is more definitive than ever before — EDCs disrupt hormones in a manner that harms human health," said Andrea C. Gore, professor of pharmacology at the University of Texas at Austin and chair of the task force that developed the statement. "Hundreds of studies are pointing to the same conclusion, whether they are long-term epidemiological studies in human, basic research in animals and cells, or research into groups of people with known occupational exposure to specific chemicals.” 


The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics also sounded the alarm on toxic chemicals, issuing this statement: “We are drowning our world in untested and unsafe chemicals and the price we are paying in terms of our reproductive health is of serious concern,” said Gian Carlo Di Renzo, MD, PhD, Honorary Secretary of FIGO and lead author of the FIGO opinion. According to Di Renzo, reproductive health professionals “witness first-hand the increasing numbers of health problems facing their patients, and preventing exposure to toxic chemicals can reduce this burden on women, children, and families around the world.”


The Getting Ready for Baby campaign has not yet received a direct response from Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us, but sees progress from campaign efforts through announcements made to the public. In spring 2015, Toys”R”Us revealed that in 2014 it had warned vendors about the problems of toxic chemicals in products, citing a number of state laws aimed at tracking or limiting them.  While not as formal as the buybuy BABY Restricted Substances List, it marks renewed attention to the issue.


Parents can take steps to avoid toxic flame retardants.  The report advises:

  • Avoid products labeled with TB-117 compliance. This doesn’t guarantee the presence of toxic flame retardants, but it is a strong signal of such. Products labeled as meeting TB-117 2013 are more likely not to contain flame retardant chemicals.

  • Look for items that are labeled as flame retardant-free. Can’t tell? Ask the retailer

  • Look for products made in 2014 or later; the later the better. Newer foam has fewer flame retardants.

  • Avoid older foam products at second hand sales.  PBDEs, a group of toxic flame retardants that were phased out years ago because they decrease children’s IQ, continue to be found in people’s homes and bodies. 


“Every baby deserves healthy gear, it’s that simple,” said Wilding. “Parents are calling on Babies”R”Us to be their partner in putting babies’ health first.”


Read the full report here (pdf)



The report was written by Clean and Healthy New York, an environmental health organization promoting safer chemicals, a sustainable environment, and a healthier world, and coordinator of the Getting Ready for Baby campaign.  Learn more about the campaign: www.gettingready4baby.org.

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