Whether parents like it or not, electronics are becoming more and more a part of kids’ everyday lives. Most homes have at least one, if not more, game consoles, tablet computers, TVs, or computers. Even though kids use these products nearly every day, we know very little about the toxic chemicals in these items. That’s a big concern.
- Flame retardants are widely used in electronic products, making these products the highest-use product category for flame retardants. Manufacturers report the amount of one toxic flame retardant used in electronics each year at between 50 and 100 million pounds. Toxic-Free Future’s study, TV Reality [ink to TV Reality], found name-brand TVs contain toxic flame retardants up to 33% of the weight of the plastic enclosure.
- Toxic flame retardants can escape the products and contaminate indoor air and house dust. Researchers have tied the use of flame retardants in electronics, including televisions, specifically to increased levels in the indoor environment. Adults and children are then exposed to flame retardants through incidental ingestion of dust, such as through hand-to-mouth activity. Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens and using electronics. For example, 70 percent of children under 12 years old, living in a tablet-owning household, have used the tablet device.
- The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted to move forward with a ban on one particularly concerning class of flame retardants called organohalogens. The ban will apply to TVs and other electronic products, as well as home furniture, mattresses, and other kids’ products. This action came in response to a petition submitted by a coalition of health, environmental, and consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Women’s Association, and Learning Disabilities Association of America.
Policymakers and companies can help protect kids and families from harmful chemicals in electronic products by phasing out the use of problematic flame retardants and ensuring consumers and policymakers have useful information to make purchasing and policy decisions about the chemicals used in products.
Organohalogen Flame Retardants Have No Business in TVs or Other Products
Organohalogen chemicals have been associated with serious human health problems, including cancer, increased time to pregnancy, decreased IQ in children, impaired memory, learning deficits, hyperactivity, hormone disruption and lowered immunity. With the uncertain timeline for the CPSC ban, Washington state should take action now to protect the health of kids and restrict the use of these chemicals in electronics and other products.
Consumers and Policymakers Need to Know the Chemicals Used in Electronic Products
Today, companies don’t have to tell consumers what toxic chemicals are in electronics. Fortunately, Washington state has the Children’s Safe Products Act (CSPA). This groundbreaking law requires makers of children’s products to report if certain toxic chemicals are present in their products.
The law has had a positive impact on kids’ health, the marketplace, and product makers. Companies from the Gap to Wal-Mart report their use of toxic chemicals in clothing, toys, bedding and personal care products. This information is critical for consumers to know the chemicals in the products they buy and for policymakers to have the best information when making policy decisions.
Also, thanks to the CSPA, companies now have an incentive to stop using chemicals that are a concern for children’s health in favor of safer alternatives. As a result, companies have begun to phase these chemicals out of their products.
The Children’s Safe Electronics Act Tackles Toxics in Electronics
The Children’s Safe Electronics Act (HB 2632) tackles the problem of dangerous chemicals in electronic products by:
- Protecting kids from harmful organohalogen flame retardants by prohibiting manufacturers from selling electronics, home furniture, mattresses and other kids’ products, that contain dangerous organohalogen chemicals.
- Filling the chemical information gap for consumers, parents, companies, and policymakers by requiring makers of electronics to report if other harmful chemicals are present in their electronic products.
We can’t know for sure the extent of the problem of toxic chemicals in electronics until the makers of these products tell us what’s in them. Washington state should require manufacturers to come clean on the chemicals they use and make sure they aren’t choosing the most problematic flame retardants, organohalogens.
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