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New Study Finds Hazardous Flame Retardants in Products Made for Infants and Children

Pending “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011” Would Ensure Chemicals Are Safe Before Being Used in Products

Washington, DC – A study of products designed for newborns, babies, and toddlers – including car seats, breast feeding pillows, changing pads, crib wedges, bassinet mattresses and other items made with polyurethane foam – were found to contain multiple toxic chemical flame retardants, according to a peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Science & Technology Journal.

Flame retardants are considered some of the most dangerous chemicals on the market, because they are persistent in the environment and bio-accumulate in people and wildlife. Adverse impacts of these chemicals can include: mutagenic damage to DNA, cancer, neurological toxicity, reproductive toxicity, developmental toxicity, and immune system damage, among others.

These hazardous substances are not regulated under current federal chemicals policy — the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. However, the pending “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011” would overhaul this law and ensure that these toxic chemicals were phased out and replaced with safe alternatives. The proposed legislation designates chemicals that persist in the environment and build up in people’s blood and tissue as “Priority 1” chemicals. EPA would be required to identify chemicals with these properties and restrict their use to the maximum extent feasible. The flame retardants studied would clearly meet the criteria.

“These are the worst kind of chemicals, and they are a potent symbol of the complete breakdown in chemical management in this country.” said Andy Igrejas, Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “You bring them into your home hidden in consumer products that seem benign. But they get out of products and into your bloodstream where they begin to damage your health. The government doesn’t do anything about it and that needs to change.”

Highlights of Study Results:

  • Four products contained penta-BDE, a substance so toxic it is banned in 172 countries and 12 U.S. states.
  • 29 products contained TDCPP or chlorinated Tris, a possible human carcinogen that was removed from children’s pajamas over health concerns in the late 1970s. In animal studies chlorinated Tris has been associated with cancer of the liver, kidney, brain and testis, among other harmful effects.
  • 14 products contained TCEP, a carcinogenic flame retardant on California’s Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals. Laboratory animal studies show TCEP causes tumors in the kidney and thyroid glands. In other laboratory animal studies, TCEP has been shown to cause reductions in fertility and poor sperm quality and interferes with brain signaling, causing hyperactivity. TCEP is no longer produced in Europe and has been identified by Canada as posing a risk to human health.

Stronger electrical codes and modernized building and fire codes, as well as increased use of smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, and self-extinguishing cigarettes, will all continue to help prevent fires without using toxic chemicals. These measures, plus an overall decrease in cigarette smoking in the U.S., have helped reduce fire deaths by 60% since 1980, making increasing use of chemical flame retardants unwise and unnecessary.