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Naptime Nightmares? Toxic Flame Retardants Found in Daycare Nap Mats

(Seattle, WA) – Children’s nap mats purchased in Washington state contain harmful flame retardant chemicals, according to independent testing commissioned by the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC). The flame retardant chemicals found in the nap mats, which are used in daycares, have been linked to cancer, genetic damage, impacts on fertility and reproductive health, allergies, hormone disruption, and other serious health problems.

“Nap time should be filled with sweet dreams, not toxic flame retardants,” said Erika Schreder, science director with the Washington Toxics Coalition.  “There are more effective and less toxic alternatives to using these chemicals to prevent fire. Manufacturers should stop using cancer-causing chemicals in their nap mats so parents can rest as easy as their children.”

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 were significantly higher in facilities that used foam nap mats than in daycares that don’t use the products.

WTC’s findings include:

  • 12 of 14 nap mats, including mats purchased from major retailers Target and Lakeshore Learning, as well as online retailer Discount School Supply, contained flame retardant chemicals.
  • 5 of 14 nap mats contained chlorinated Tris (TDCPP), which is known to cause cancer and was removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s because of health concerns.
  • 7 of 14 nap mats contained chemicals found in the flame retardant Firemaster 550. Recent research has linked the product to obesity, early puberty, and anxiety.

Testing results are available here.

WTC’s testing was released today in conjunction with other testing conducted by the California-based Center for Environmental Health (CEH) that found harmful flame retardant chemicals in 22 of 24 nap mats from California, New York, Alaska, Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut. CEH’s testing results are available in their report, “Naptime Nightmares? Toxic Flame Retardants in Child Care Nap Mats.”

WTC and a coalition of over 30 organizations are urging passage this year of the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act (HB 1294/SB 5181), which would ban the use of TDCPP in children’s products, including nap mats, beginning July 1, 2014. The legislation would also help ensure that manufacturers use safer chemicals as replacements, providing added public scrutiny to chemicals being used as replacements.  The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island) and Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim).

“We are very concerned that the chemical industry is trying to weaken the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act when we urgently need a solution that protects kids from cancer-causing flame retardants and unsuitable replacement chemicals.  The Washington state legislature should take quick action and pass the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act this year,” said Schreder.

Other states are considering bills to regulate the use of flame retardants, including Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington. Also earlier this month, California proposed a new fire safety standard (called TB117-2013) that would provide improved fire safety without the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals.

To avoid flame retardants in nap mats, CEH urges child care providers and parents to look for nap mats made without polyurethane foam. Other options that are not usually treated with flame retardants include polyester fiberfill, cotton, and wool. To avoid ingestion of flame retardant-tainted dust, parents should also wash their hands and their children’s hands, and vacuum often. More tips are available here.

The Washington Toxics Coalition is statewide organization that works to keep toxic chemicals out of homes, schools, and workplaces. We promote alternatives, advocate policies, empower communities and educate people to create a healthy environment.

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.

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Stephanie Stohler, [email protected]

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