The good news is that major retailer, Walmart, will stop the sale of baby products with cancer-causing flame retardant chemicals. The bad news, it will only be done in California.
The action follows a report issued by the California-based nonprofit Center for Environmental Health (CEH). It found Walmart and other retailers sold 16 products with a carcinogenic flame retardant chemical above the safety standards set under California’s consumer protection laws.
The watchdog group found the chemical chlorinated Tris, which was banned for use in children’s pajamas in the 1970s, in harmful levels in children’s products. Laboratory testing by CEH found the chemical is still being used today in products for young children, at a critical stage of their development.
Not only Walmart but Target, Babies R Us, Kmart and other retailers sold the products which included a changing pad, infant sleeping chair and crib mattress. High levels of Tris were also found in an adult glider, frequently used in children’s rooms, two ottomans and a mattress pad.
Tris is a known endocrine disruptor found in high levels in children. It is listed in California as a known cancer causer and is linked to gene mutations but continues to be used in fabrics and foam, even where there is no concern of fire.
The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that it does not work to retard flames in treated foam products any more than in untreated foams.
Under California law, products that expose users to Tris are required to carry a warning label which was not contained on any of the named items. CEH has launched legal action against the retailers for being in violation of California law.
“Infants and young children, who are at critical stages of their development, should not be sleeping on products doused with these ticking chemical time bombs,“ said Michael Green, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Health. “It’s past time for companies to take steps towards eliminating these harmful chemicals from products for our children and families.”
This is not the first time Walmart has responded to bad news. The big box retailer pulled vinyl bibs from the market in 2007 after CEH found they contained high levels of lead. Since then a federal standard has been set for lead in vinyl-containing products for children.
NBC Nightly News reported that the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found that 85 percent of sofas tested contained potentially toxic flame retardants which don’t stay in the couch. They are found in the air and mix with the dust, perhaps explaining while children who crawl on the floor have the most exposure.
In response to the CEH report, the CPSC said flame retardants may provide valuable escape time in case of a fire. A furniture trade group told NBC it was not aware of any evidence linking chemicals to human health problems.
Researchers for the CEH say children nationwide deserve the same consideration as children in California.