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New Guide to Flame Retardants in Baby Products

Toxic flame retardants have been making headlines again this year—from a chemical company suing California over its new flame retardant law to Coca-Cola removing chemicals linked to flame retardants from its beverages.

Always of concern is the presence of these toxic chemicals in products designed and manufactured for babies, from mattresses to swings—basically the major objects children come in contact with every day. Recognizing that a parent’s highest priority is the safety of their children, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) released a report card today to provide parents with the information they need to make informed decisions when purchasing national-brand baby products to avoid exposure to harmful flame retardant chemicals.

The report card looks at the progress made by 17 companies, including Carters, Graco and Fisher Price, towards eliminating flame retardants in their products, as well as their transparency in making information available to consumers.

“There is no reason that any baby products company should use harmful flame retardant chemicals that can contaminate children’s bodies,” said Judy Levin, CEH pollution prevention co-director. “Companies that have removed the flame retardant chemicals and labeled their products as flame retardant free are to be commended for their leadership.  We call upon all baby products companies to follow suit.”

For nearly 40 years, manufacturers of baby products were subject to a California flammability standard that promoted toxic (and ineffective) flame retardants in foam-filled products, many of which are linked to serious health problems. On Jan. 1, California’s new flammability standards went into effect, which allows companies to produce fire-safe products without the use of these chemicals.

Fifteen baby products, from highchairs to bassinets, were found by regulators to not pose a fire safety risk and hence are exempt. Because of this exemption, companies can make safer products without flame retardants. However, while companies may avoid using these chemicals under the standards, their use is not prohibited in such products.

CEH’s report card shows which companies have eliminated flame retardants from their products and which use labels to notify consumers of this change, to helps parents identify safer products for their babies.

Company responses to CEH's survey are graded as follows:

Green: Products do not contain flame retardants and are labeled online and at the point-of-purchase.
Yellow: Products do not contain flame retardants, but are not labeled.
Orange: Some products still contain flame retardants, companies are in the process of eliminating flame retardants.
Red: Products may contain flame retardants (no response).

 

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