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Stop the Secrecy on Toxic Chemicals in Kids’ Products

Finding out what chemicals are used in kids’ products is no easy feat. We know this first hand. We have our own scientists to figure out what chemicals are in products. Our scientists have used an XRF “x-ray gun” to test for lead and cadmium in toys, cut foam out of couches and baby products to test for toxic flame retardants, swabbed down money to test for BPA, and even cut pieces of plastic from TVs to test for flame retardants. 

Of course you the consumer can’t do this kind of testing. To find out what’s in a product, you’re largely at the mercy of the companies that make these products. As you may have guessed, companies are pretty secretive when it comes to disclosing the chemicals they use. 

That’s why this month we filed a petition with the Washington State Department of Ecology to require more reporting of toxic chemicals used in kids’ products under the state’s right-to-know law, the Children’s Safe Products Act.

Right now in Washington, companies making kids’ products must report the presence of any of 66 chemicals the state determined are a high concern for children’s health. While the law covers many kids’ items, including toys, clothing, and personal care products, and has given us lots of valuable information, there is room for improvement when it comes to the chemicals reported.

The 66 chemicals on the reporting list represent only a fraction of the over 80,000 chemicals currently on the market. It’s been seven years since the list was put together. In that time, research shows other chemicals that are harmful to kids’ health are widely used in kids’ products. Chemicals like certain phthalates used in personal care products and stain resistors used in kids’ clothing.

Specifically, we’re asking Ecology to require reporting of several additional chemicals used as flame retardants, stain resistors, and plasticizers (they make plastic soft). If a company is using a chemical that science says is harmful to kids’ health, it’s not too much to ask that they disclose this to consumers. You can read about the specifics in our petition.

Requiring reporting of more chemicals not only gives consumers better information; it also provides policymakers with better information so they can make more informed decisions about chemical regulations. 

Also, the current reporting requirements have provided an incentive for companies to stop using the chemicals on the list. The GAP, Triboro Quilt, and Faber Castell are some of the companies that have cited Washington’s law as a reason they have stopped using certain chemicals. Adding additional chemicals to the list will keep companies moving in the right direction. 

Ecology has initiated rule-making to update the list and we will be working to ensure the list is expanded. We can end the secrecy around chemicals in kids’ products, protect kids, and move the marketplace.