New Report Finds Missing Information About Toxic Chemicals in Children's Products

Toxic Metals and Flame Retardants Detected in Kids' Items
Advocates and Sponsors Call for End of Session Action by Senate and Assembly to Protect Children's Health

(Albany, NY - June 12, 2018) Environmental, public health and children’s advocates joined with legislative leaders to release a new report Tell Me More: Missing Information on Harmful Chemicals in Children's Products and urge action on three pieces of legislation that would help protect children from harmful chemicals.  Researchers for the report screened children’s products purchased on Long Island, in Westchester County and Albany finding heavy metals, such as cadmium and antimony, and flame retardants. The report also includes findings about chemicals of concern in children's products that was conducted and published in peer-reviewed journals by researchers from the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Laboratory.


Among the findings in the report:

  • Zipper pulls in children's hoodies and other clothing can have cadmium

  • Fabric in children's products made of polyester can contain antimony

  • Children's foam furniture with flame retardants

  • Bisphenols were found in teethers for babies, even in cases where they were marked "BPA-free"


The ongoing presence of harmful chemicals highlights the need for action in the New York State Legislature.  Advocates and legislators focused on three bills in this area with sponsors in both houses:

  • The Toxic Show and Tell Act [S.6034-A (Avella)/A.7950-A(Ortiz)] would require children's product makers to disclose the presence of a set of chemicals of concern to children's health in the products they make.

  • Restriction of Organohalogen Flame Retardants in children's products [S. 8227 (Boyle)/A. 9964 (Englebright)] would act on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s finding that certain flame retardants should be present in children’s products.

  • Expansion of the Bisphenol A-Free Children and Babies Act (S. 7944 (Hannon)/A. 9997 (Engelbright)] would expand the list of bisphenols restricted in baby bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers to include the ones used as replacements for the now-banned BPA.


“Our report, Tell Me More, highlights the unacceptable: toxic chemicals continue to be used in children's products, and families can't tell which products may contribute to their children's exposure to chemicals that can have lifelong health consequences. We need leadership from New York State, and the sponsors of these three bills are offering meaningful solutions," said Kathleen Curtis, LPN, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York, which co-authored the report.


Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, "Parents should have easy access to information about the types of hazardous chemicals that are in their children's products. Accurate data on harmful chemicals in children's products can help prevent health consequences for children and our environment. We join Clean and Healthy New York in urging our state legislators to take action before the end of this session.”


Elected officials who sponsor legislation to solve these problems had the following to say:


“Protecting children from exposure to harmful chemicals is crucial,” stated Senator Kemp Hannon, Chair of the Senate Health Committee and sponsor of the Bisphenols bill.  “By prohibiting the sale of child care products containing bisphenol, we are taking an important step in the right direction.” 

"This report is very troubling and alarming as a parent. It reemphasizes the need to pass comprehensive legislation like The Toxic Show and Tell Act," said Senator David Carlucci. “We need the experts to tell us what chemicals are dangerous and require manufactures disclose when they are using them in our children's products.”


Senator Phil Boyle, sponsor of the Organohalogen-free Children and Babies Act, said, “Let’s protect our children from exposure to organohalogen flame retardants and their recognized health risks. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a warning with a long list of illnesses caused by exposure to organohalogen flame retardants. These chemicals offer no fire safety benefit in products for children aged three and under, have a disproportionately negative impact on very young children, and the consequences of exposure could follow them throughout their lives.”


“Whether in child care settings, preschool, or the home, babies and children should have healthy environments. It’s past the time when New York should leverage our economic impact and require companies to report harmful chemicals in children’s products. I urge both houses to pass health-protective legislation before we head home,” said Senator Tony Avella, sponsor of the Toxic Show and Tell Act.  


Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, sponsor of the Toxic Show and Tell Act, said, “We have made significant improvements towards protecting New Yorkers from consumer hazards. However, we still have much to do for a cleaner future. Protecting our families, children and consumer from harmful manufactured chemicals is essential.”

The groups noted that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation released final guidance requiring disclosure of all ingredients in home and commercial cleaning products, and pointed to it as a model for New York's leadership in shining a light on the chemicals that go into everyday products.


"Since babies and young children are in a sensitive window of susceptibility, they are at risk when exposed to children's products with chemicals that imitate estrogen such as cadmium, antimony, bisphenols and certain flame retardant compounds. At the very least, parents should be made aware of what they are buying for their children,” said Laura Weinberg, President of the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition.


“It should be a no-brainer that New Yorkers have the right to know if there are harmful or deadly chemicals in the toys, clothes, and furniture they buy for their children. But current policies protect wealthy corporations at the cost of the safety and well-being of families. Our New York lawmakers can lead the nation by passing these common sense measures that work to eliminate the most toxic chemicals in these items, and that give parents the right to know what chemicals are in the products they buy for their children,” said Alok Disa, Research Analyst for Earthjustice.


Russ Haven, NYPIRG General Counsel said: "New York should stop allowing children to be used in a vast unregulated experiment that subjects them to toxic chemicals in their clothes, toys and virtually every other product they use during critical developmental stages. These common-sense bills would extend existing laws to chemicals very similar to ones already banned in New York and begin to give parents information about what's in the things they buy for their kids."

“The next generation of leaders will follow by example. Let’s keep them safe from harm. The newly released report Tell Me More: Missing Information on Harmful Chemicals in Children's Products calls for action on proposed legislation that will protect our kids from the dangers of harmful chemicals. Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition (HBCAC) applauds the sponsors of a suite of proposed bills that will protect our children. We call upon NYS legislators to set an example and act in this session ensuring the health of the next generation,” said Karen Joy Miller, Founder of Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition.


“Healthy Schools Network urges the New York legislature to take action for children at the end of this session. This June, while children in schools statewide are taking tough final exams, is the best time for the legislature to approve the bills that will reduce toxic threats to the future of New York’s children,” said Claire Barnett, Executive Director Healthy Schools Network.

“Toxic chemicals have no place in products for children. This report helps to illuminate the pervasive nature of this avoidable problem. We encourage the state legislature to take action to support greater transparency for consumers. We must work together to ensure the health and safety of our children,” said Christine Appah, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

“The New York Sustainable Business Council represents thousands of businesses committed to the triple bottom line of social responsibility, environmental stewardship, and economic prosperity. This toxic chemicals issue cuts across all three tenets. Not only would these bills protect our most vulnerable and reduce environmental contamination, they stand to strengthen our economy. With the growing demand for non-toxic products, chemical disclosure will allow manufacturers and retailers to make better-informed decisions. Smarter chemical regulations will drive green technology innovation. Plus, the children we aim to protect are our future workforce. We have known for years that these measures were necessary. The findings published in the recent report Tell Me More underscore the importance of acting now,” said Bob Rossi, Executive Director of the New York Sustainable Business Council.


About the Highlighted Chemicals


Antimony is classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization and other government bodies. It can cause heart and liver damage. It is used in the production of polyester, and as such can be found as a contaminant in a wide array of products. As antimony trioxide, it is used as a fire retardant and can be used to produce pigments and paints. Antimony and antimony compounds were reported as present in 1,234 product categories to the State of Washington in 2017.


Bisphenols (Bisphenol A, Bisphenol F, Bisphenol S, etc.) can disrupt hormones, thus contributing to the risk of metabolic disorders, asthma, infertility or even cancer. The health hazards related to bisphenol exposure pose a particular threat to vulnerable subpopulations such as pregnant women and children. Companies reported the presence bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s products 109 times to Washington State in 2017. The State will start collecting information on the presence of BPF and BPS in 2018.


Cadmium is also classified as a carcinogen by the WHO, US EPA, and others. Cadmium also appears to damage DNA (genotoxic). It accumulates in liver and kidneys and can cause kidney damage. Prenatal exposure may cause developmental disabilities. Companies reported cadmium and cadmium compounds in 200 product categories to the State of Washington in 2017. Note: Washington State Law set limits on cadmium in children’s products.


Organohalogen Flame Retardants (OFRs): The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)issued warnings to avoid organohalogen FRs (made with chlorine and bromine) because they can contribute to reproductive harm, decreased IQ, impaired memory, learning deficits and other neurological harm, hormone disruption including interference with thyroid hormones and potentially contributing to diabetes, cancer, and immune disorders.


The report can be accessed here:




Clean and Healthy New York (CHNY) advances policy and market changes to promote safer chemicals, a sustainable economy, and a healthier world. Learn more:


The mission of the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) is to educate, engage and empower New Yorkers to be effective advocates on behalf of the environment. Learn more:

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