Report: Toxic Chemicals Widespread in Children’s Products

Media Contacts
Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Companies Report Thousands of Uses of Toxic Chemicals

Maryland PIRG Foundation

Baltimore, MD – Makers of children’s products have reported widespread use of hazardous chemicals under the landmark Washington state 2008 Children’s Safe Products Act (CSPA). “What’s on Your List? Toxic Chemicals in Your Shopping Cart,” reveals the prevalence of chemicals that can cause cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive and developmental problems in products readily available for purchase at many of the country’s largest retailers.

Among the total 4,605 reports of toxic chemicals in children’s products are reports of cancer-causing formaldehyde in children’s tableware and harmful flame retardants in car seats and toys. These reports of “Chemicals of High Concern for Children” being used in children’s toys, clothing, safety products and bedding were reported by manufacturers between March and September 2013. Many of the products reported are sold nationally by retailers like Target, Safeway, Kroger, Walmart and Walgreens.

Washington’s law is the first of its kind in the United States and has been lauded for shedding light on the use of harmful chemicals in children’s products. For the first time under the 2008 law, medium-sized manufacturers with gross sales of $100 million or more were required to disclose whether they were using any of the 66 “Chemical of High Concern to Children” in children’s products.

“It’s time for Maryland to publish a list of Chemicals of Concern,” said Maryland PIRG Associate, Joanna Guy, “Marylanders have a right to know the potential health hazards of chemicals in everyday products.”

The chemicals being reported are linked to cancer, hormone disruption and atypical reproductive development, like early puberty. Among the chemicals reported are: formaldehyde, bisphenol A (BPA), parabens, phthalates, heavy metals, flame retardants and industrial solvents.

“This shows us, straight from the horse’s mouth, that toxic chemicals are used in the manufacture of products we buy for our children,” said Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director of the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC). “Manufacturers and lawmakers face an urgent problem, one we believe can be fixed with strong state and federal policies.”

Researchers at the Washington Toxics Center (WTC) were particularly surprised by new reports of manufacturers adding toxic flame retardants to baby car seats, booster seats, plastic jewelry and toys, even as health experts warn against serious health problems. Perhaps most egregious was a report by Harmony Juvenile Products, who reported using a chemical known as decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209 or deca), banned from furniture under a 2007 law in Washington state, in baby car and booster seats. This chemical has also been banned in Maryland.

The Maryland legislature has banned several toxic chemicals in recent years, including BPA in baby bottles and formula cans, lead and cadmium in children’s toys, and the toxic flame retardants TCEP used in children’s products.

Delegate James Hubbard, who chairs the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, said, “As a grandfather and a long time representative of Prince George’s County’s District 23A, I am very proud of the children’s health protections I and my colleagues have passed over the years. I am pleased to see the release of this report, which is a thorough discussion of the progress made and the challenges ahead when it comes to children’s environmental health.”

Maryland environmental health groups are calling on the state to do more. “Maryland should take action–like Washington and several other states– to force the makers of children’s products to disclose toxic ingredients,” explained Rebecca Ruggles, Director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network, “We need to continue our state’s record of protecting children from toxics and disclosing chemical hazards to the public should be our state’s next step.”

 “Parents should have the tools to protect their children and families from toxic chemicals, but right now they don’t,” explained Guy, “We urgently need the Maryland Department of Health to move forward on identifying and phasing out dangerous chemicals from children’s products.”