Hidden Hazards in the Nursery


Popular baby products, including nursing pillows and car seats, contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and other health effects, according to a new report authored by the Washington Toxics Coalition and released today by Clean and Healthy New York. Children and families are exposed to these Tris chemicals when they escape from products and contaminate house dust and indoor air.


“Appallingly, this is just one study in a long line documenting toxic chemicals in the products families rely upon.  No parent would deliberately expose their baby in this way.  Product makers need to stop simply darting from one toxic chemical as it is banned to another,” said Bobbi Chase Wilding, contributor to the study and Deputy Director for Clean and Healthy New York. “Further state action is needed to end this toxic shell game. ”


The report (available here) found toxic chemicals in 85% (17 of 20) of new baby and children’s products tested, including bassinet pads, nursing pillows, changing pads, and car seats. The most prevalent chemical found was chlorinated Tris (TDCPP), which was removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s when it was found to cause genetic mutations.  TDCPP was in 80% of the products (16 of 20). California recently classified it as a carcinogen, and evidence links the chemical to neurotoxicity as well as hormone disruption.  View the chart summarizing all findings. 


Children’s health advocates in the JustGreen Partnership are calling on the New York State Legislature to expand last year’s Tris-free Children and Babies Act, which banned TCEP (one form of Tris) in children’s products beginning January 1, 2013.  They seek to include TDCPP, the similarly harmful and most widely used form. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst).


“In 2011, I proudly sponsored the law that banned TCEP in children's products from being sold in New York,” said Senator Mark Grisanti, Environmental Conservation Committee Chair.  “As I said at that time, we need to do more in the area of protecting our children from harmful chemicals.  I am delighted to see the result of this report that takes children's products from store shelves and tests them for TCEP and its harmful fellow Tris, TDCPP with disturbing results.  I am hopeful that the results of this study will support the passage of legislation I sponsor that would ban TDCPP in children's products.”


“The New York State Legislature led the way in 2011 by passing a bill I sponsored, the Tris-Free Children and Babies Act, the first of its kind in the nation. Although this was an important first step in protecting children from TCEP, one form of toxic Tris, it's clear from the results of this report that there is more work to be done to protect children from carcinogenic TDCPP, which is widely used and  harmful,” said Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, Environmental Conservation Committee Chair. "Why would we allow a chemical banned from children's sleepwear because of its toxicity to be used in other nursery items?  This legislation is one of my priorities for 2012," Sweeney added.


“Toxic chemicals have no business in products we bring into our homes, especially in items for kids who are more vulnerable to chemical exposures. Makers of children’s products need to ensure they do not contain chemicals that harm children’s health,” said David Carpenter, MD, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environmental at the SUNY Albany School of Public Health.  “Early childhood exposure to cancer-causing chemicals can have lifelong consequences.”

“It is impossible to know what sort of chemicals are in my children's products and what their health effects are.   As a mother, it’s frustrating to find out the products my kids use can contain harmful chemicals and that the government allows it. Our state legislature needs to take action to get these chemicals out of products and make sure companies don’t just switch to something worse,” said Sarah Howard, mother of two boys. "It is my job as their mother to protect my children. I try to protect them from exposure to toxic chemicals, but I can't do it alone."


Several children’s products did not contain the toxic chemicals, demonstrating it is possible to make products without them. Products that tested negative were: Eddie Bauer Pop-up Booster Seat, Balboa Nursing Pillow, and First Years Co-Sleeper.  Other companies known not to use such chemicals include Boppy, Orbit Baby, and Baby Bjorn.


“Good business practices will go a long way. As more manufacturers recognize potential health hazards and eliminate them from their products we will continue to shine a light on their product and drive the marketplace," said Karen Joy Miller, Executive Director of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Inc. and Prevention is the Cure Campaign.  


“Protecting fire fighters and building occupants from fire is critical, but we can and must do it without exposing children to chemicals that harm their health. It is possible to make safe products without cancer-causing flame retardants, which produce lethal dioxins and furans when they burn,” said Dennis Sweeney, Health and Safety Training Coordinator for the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association.


In Congress, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), would overhaul the 35-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The proposed law would ensure 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. Meanwhile, more and more states are passing laws like the Tris-Free Children and Babies Act to address toxic threats in response to the failure of the federal law regulating chemicals. In the last 10 years, 18 states have passed more than 70 laws to protect public health from harmful chemicals. 


"It's beyond dispute that everyday consumer products are constantly exposing infants and young children to chemicals that are known or suspected to be carcinogens, gene altering, hormone disrupting or toxic to the nervous system," said NYPIRG Legislative Counsel Russ Haven.  "New York has to act to begin the process of getting the most dangerous chemicals out of the products that children, our most vulnerable consumers, are regularly using.  We simply can't wait for Congress to act in this area."

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