Naptime Nightmares? Toxic Flame Retardants Found in Day Care Nap Mat

Advocates call on New York State Legislators to Protect Children from Toxic Chemicals


Children’s nap mats from California, New York, Washington, Alaska, Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut contain harmful flame retardant chemicals, according to independent testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). The flame retardant chemicals found in the nap mats, which are used in daycares nationwide, have been linked to cancer, genetic damage, impacts on fertility and reproductive health, allergies, hormone disruption, and other serious health problems.

A full copy of the report is available here:


The nap mats were purchased at major retailers including Babies R Us, Target, and national online daycare supply companies, and were tested by a leading Duke University researcher who has published numerous papers on flame retardants in consumer products. The findings were released today in the CEH report, “Naptime Nightmares? Toxic Flame Retardants in Child Care Nap Mats.”


“There is no reason parents should have to worry that their children will be exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious problems when they take a nap at daycare,” said Ansje Miller, Eastern States Director for CEH.


Two of the mats tested came from New York State. One of these contained high levels of TDCPP, a chemical the NYS Assembly voted to ban in children’s products last year while the Senate failed to bring the bill to the floor.  The other mat – donated from an actively used set by a Rochester-area child care provider – contained a new mixture of chemicals known as Firemaster 550 and triphenyl phosphate or TPP.  Less information is known about this proprietary blend, leaving parents in the dark about what exposures could mean for their children.


“Since taking office I have been working to curb the use of flame retardants in children's products, this report again shows pervasive the use of fire retardants truly are and again show the need to protect our children from these products,” said Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo), Environmental Conservation Committee Chair.

“Children are especially sensitive to exposure to many dangerous chemicals.  Manufactures must apply common sense and refuse to add chemicals which represent real health risks and do not provide any practical safety benefit,” said Assemblyman Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), Environmental Conservation Committee Chair.

CEH, Clean and Healthy New York, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Washington Toxics Coalition, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, and Clean Water Action chapters in Massachusetts and Connecticut collected 24 nap mats, and sent them to Duke University researcher Heather Stapleton for testing. Dr. Stapleton’s testing found flame retardant chemicals in all but two of the nap mats. The testing found 10 different flame retardant chemicals (or chemical mixtures) in the nap mats; 19 of the nap mats contain more than one harmful flame retardant chemical. Eleven of the nap mats were advertised as flame resistant.


The flame retardant chemical TPP (triphenyl phosphate), which has been linked in animal studies to lower sperm production and nervous system impacts, was found in 18 of the nap mats. Nine of the nap mats contain the flame retardant TDCPP (chlorinated Tris), which is known to cause cancer and has been linked to genetic damage. Chlorinated Tris was banned from children’s pajamas in the mid-1970s, yet it still widely used in children’s products today. In December, CEH initiated legal action against retailers and suppliers of baby products and nap mats for unlabeled products containing chlorinated Tris in violation of California law.


Children are exposed to flame retardants from nap mats when the chemicals leach out into the air, and when chemicals settle in dust that children touch and ingest. A study of daycares last year found that levels of certain flame retardants including chlorinated Tris were significantly higher in facilities that used foam nap mats than in daycares that don’t use the products.


CEH and other organizations have for years been urging regulators to change the outdated state and federal product flammability standards that encourage the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals. A federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report last year stated that chemical flame retardants are ineffective for fire safety in furniture, and noted that their testing showed that “fire-retardant foams did not offer a practically significantly greater level of open- flame safety than did the untreated foams.” Earlier this month, CEH welcomed a new California proposal for a fire safety standard (called TB117-2013) that would provide improved fire safety without the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals.


Clean and Healthy New York and the Child Care Council in Rochester, NY have a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to help child care providers in the Great Lakes basin avoid toxic chemicals in products.  One of their focuses will be on flame retardants, including in nap mats.


“This report is unnerving to me, as a mom and an advocate. There is no reason or requirement for flame retardant chemicals to be in children’s products like nap mats.  Government and manufacturers must act to make our children’s environments healthier and safer,” said Bobbi Chase Wilding, Deputy Director of Clean and Healthy New York.


To avoid flame retardants in nap mats, CEH urges child care providers and parents to look for nap mats made without polyurethane foam. Parents and child care providers may also ask nap mat suppliers about their use of flame retardant chemicals, and purchase products from companies that pledge they no longer use any of these chemicals.  Other options that are not usually treated with flame retardants include polyester fiberfill, cotton, and wool, or selecting nap cots, which have mesh instead of padding to cushion sleeping children. To avoid ingestion of flame retardant-tainted dust, parents should also wash their hands and their children’s hands, and vacuum often.



The 2012 study, “Environmental Exposures in Early Childhood Education Environments” is available at (p 66)

The 2012 CPSC report is at

Information about CEH’s legal action is here:

The Center for Environmental Health has a sixteen-year track record of protecting children and families from harmful chemicals in our air, water, food and in dozens of every day products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual "Green Champion" award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.

Clean and Healthy New York, Inc. (CHNY) conducts crucial research, education and advocacy in service of chemical policy and market reform. Our mission is to promote safer chemicals, a sustainable economy, and a healthier world.  CHNY represents, connects and taps into the power of otherwise isolated constituencies, such as scientists, nurses, lawyers, organized labor, health-affected people, teachers, parents, child care providers and businesses.

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