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 our kids use these products nearly everyday, we know very little about the chemicals in these items. That’s a big concern.
Here’s what we know:
- Electronics can contain harmful toxic chemicals like lead, cadmium, and toxic flame retardants, that can escape the products and contaminate air and house dust. Kids and adults are exposed when they breath or ingest dust.
- 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.
- Flame retardants are widely used in electronic products, making them the highest-use product category for flame retardants. Estimates put the amount of one toxic flame retardant used in electronics each year at between 50 and 100 million pounds.
- Researchers have tied the use of flame retardants in electronics, including televisions, specifically to increased levels in the indoor environment. Several studies indicate that flame retardants migrate from electronic products into household dust. Adults and children are then exposed to flame retardants through incidental ingestion of dust, such as through hand-to-mouth activity.
Parents, Consumers, and Policymakers Need Better Information
We can’t know for sure the extent of the problem of toxic chemicals in electronics used by kids because the makers of these products aren’t required to tell us what’s in them. A loophole in Washington’s kids’ products right-to-know law lets electronic product makers off the hook when it comes to disclosing what’s in their products.
Currently, makers of toys, clothing, personal care products, and other items for kids, are required to report annually if they use any of the 66 chemicals designated by the state as a concern for children’s health. Given that electronic products have become part of kids’ daily lives, it’s time the makers of these products come clean on the chemicals they use. We all have a right-to-know whether we’re bringing harmful chemicals into our homes. It’s time to Come Clean on the Screens!
The good news is that the Children’s Safe Electronics Act (HB 1596), sponsored by Representative Beth Doglio (D-Olympia), was introduced in the 2017 session of the Washington State Legislature. This bill would require makers of electronics to report if harmful chemicals are present in their products. It’s an easy first step for filling the data gap on chemicals in electronics so that scientists, parents, and policymakers can find solutions to protecting our kids from harmful chemicals. Unfortunately the bill did not pass, but efforts are underway to reintroduce the bill for the 2018 legislative session.
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