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80% Of Baby Products Contain Toxic Flame Retardants

May 18, 2011

According to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, 80 percent of baby products contain toxic or untested chemical flame retardants.

The study said a third of products contain a chemical called chlorinated tris, which was removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s because of cancer concerns.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said there is a “moderate level of concern” about links between tris and cancer, developmental problems, reproductive problems and other health concerns.

Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said it found that tris “may pose a significant health risk.”

Another flame retardant known as TCEP was found in 10 of the nursing pillows tested.  California lists TCEP as a carcinogen.

Sonya Lunder, a scientist with the Environmental Working Group, told USA Today that toddlers have levels of flame-retardants in their bodies three times higher than adults. 

The study said that is partly due to kids spending so much time on the floor, where chemicals can accumulate in household dust, and because they frequently put their fingers in their mouths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found flame-retardants are in the bodies of 90 percent of Americans.

Lunder said the chemicals are an inexpensive way for manufacturers to comply with California’s strict fire safety standard.   She also said companies are not required to label products containing flame-retardants.

“Flame retardants are well-studied and provide important fire safety benefits in homes, cars and public areas,” the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, said in a statement to USA Today’s Liz Szabo.

Manufacturers’ “dual objectives” are to use “the safest possible chemistry to protect families by preventing fires from starting and limiting the spread of fires once ignited.”

Gordon Nelson, a professor of chemistry at the Florida Institute of Technology, told USA Today that some of the baby products tested were purchased in 2002, which was before PentaBDA, a common flame-retardant, was phased out.

Nelson said California also exempted strollers, infant carriers and nursing pillows from its fire safety standard last year.

Nelson said baby products might appear safer if researchers were to test only products currently sold in stores.

According to a buyer’s guide issued with the study, BabyLuxe Organic, Baby Bjorn, Orbit Baby and Boppy all say their products meet California’s standards without chemical flame-retardants.

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