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Toxic-Free Future’s study spurs King County action that protects its youngest children from toxic chemicals

2,440 toxic-free nap mats are being distributed to 316 child care providers across King County to protect the health of young children in child care environments

SEATTLE, W.A.—In response to Toxic-Free Future’s 2018 peer-reviewed study, King County’s Best Starts for Kids initiative has invested in $300,000 worth of toxic-free nap mats ⁠— 2,440 in total ⁠— and partnered with community-based organizations to distribute and support young children in the care of 249 child care centers and 67 family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) providers across King County. Toxic-Free Future’s 2018 study provided clear scientific evidence that replacing children’s nap mats with mats free of toxic flame retardants results in significant decreases in the levels of  flame retardants in child care environments.

Studies have found that exposures to flame-retardant chemicals are associated with adverse health effects including cancer, hormone disruption, and obesity. Toxic flame retardants can easily escape the nap mats, contaminate dust and air, and then can be inhaled or ingested. Child cares that use foam nap mats have been found to have higher levels of flame retardants in their dust. 

“Adding flame retardant chemicals to children’s nap maps is an unnecessary toxic exposure,” explains Erika Schreder, who led the 2018 study and is Toxic-Free Future’s science director. “I’m especially thrilled to see King County leading the way in protecting the kids in our community with safer materials that mean a cleaner childcare environment. Children are especially vulnerable to the impacts of these kinds of chemicals because their bodies and brains are still developing, and we need to be mindful of the health of environments like child cares where they spend the bulk of their time.”

King County’s Best Starts for Kids initiative has partnered with local nonprofits ChildCare Resources (CCR) and Sisters in Common to distribute 2,000 toxic-free nap mats to child care centers and 440 to family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) providers — reaching the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, family friends, and neighbors who take care of their young children. Building off the partners’ community relationships and extensive network across King County, the distribution effort is prioritizing communities that have historically lacked access to health and early learning services and resources, reaching providers in South King County and other high-need areas. A voter-approved levy and an initiative to improve the health and well-being of all King County residents, Best Starts for Kids has served more than half of a million King County children, youth, young adults, and families in partnership with more than 500 community-based organizations.

“We’re excited to integrate Toxic-Free Future’s groundbreaking research into the Best Starts for Kids initiative and to continue supporting the essential work of childcare providers across King County. Supplying childcare providers with non-toxic nap mats, in partnership with Child Care Resources, ensures the continued health and safety of our youngest children in the spaces where they play, learn, and grow,” says Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health, Seattle & King County.

King County’s program provides mats from Naturepedic that are advertised as free of vinyl and flame retardants. 

“We all deserve to have access to safe and toxic-free products, and King County is helping make sure that’s the case,” says Nancy Uding, program director at Toxic-Free Future. “Washington State has led the nation in banning certain flame retardants in newer products, so actions like this are critical for getting older toxic products out of child cares, homes, and other places.”

Several states have acted to ban some flame retardants in children’s products, including Washington, but stronger policies are needed to prevent the use of toxic flame retardants. The Washington state Department of Ecology is currently considering regulatory action to ban some of the most harmful flame retardants, called organohalogens, in electronic enclosures under its groundbreaking Safer Products for Washington law. In addition, the Washington state legislators recently adopted a capital budget, now on Governor Inslee’s desk, that includes $6.5 million for a statewide program that replaces toxic products, such as those containing certain flame retardants. 

In 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning to consumers, retailers, and manufacturers to avoid using products containing organohalogen flame retardants in children’s products and electronics. The CPSC also voted to move forward with a ban on these chemicals, but no timetable has been announced.

“It’s time to put an end to the unnecessary use of dangerous chemicals, and now our state has the ability to do that under our Safer Products for Washington law. The state should move forward swiftly to implement this law,” added Uding. 

More information on reducing flame retardant exposures can be found at Toxic-Free Future’s Solutions to Reducing Kids’ Flame Retardant Exposures.

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Toxic-Free Future advocates for the use of safer products, chemicals, and practices through advanced research, grassroots organizing, and consumer engagement to ensure a healthier tomorrow. 

Best Starts for Kids builds on the strengths of families and communities so that babies are born healthy, children thrive and establish a strong foundation for life, and young people grow into happy, healthy adults.

Toxic-Free Future, Stephanie Stohler: [email protected] 
King County Best Starts for Kids, Hannah Johnson: [email protected] 

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Stephanie Stohler, [email protected]

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