Lab Testing Shows Children’s Furniture Contains Harmful Chemicals
Connecticut Public Health Association Press Release
Disney Princess Chair Purchased In Connecticut Store Contained Hormone-Disrupting Chemical Firemaster 500
CONNECTICUT – Independent testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and Connecticut CleanWater Action has found harmful flame-retardant chemicals in children’s chairs, couches and other kids’ furniture purchased from Walmart, Target, Kmart, Toys “R” Us/Babies “R” Us, BuyBuy Baby and other major retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The results were released today.
In July and August, CEH, CT CleanWater Action and other partner groups purchased 42 items of children’s furniture from 13 states and Canada. Items were purchased from major retailers and sent to Duke University researcher Heather Stapleton for laboratory analysis. Dr. Stapleton is one of the country’s foremost researchers on testing for flame-retardant chemicals in consumer products. Her previous studies on flame-retardants in furniture, baby products and other consumer goods have been published in leading peer-reviewed journals and featured in major national news reports.
Anne Hulick RN, MSN, JD, Coordinator for the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy CT said that many items found with flame-retardants are designed with colorful children’s characters including Disney Princesses, Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer, Marvel Comics Spiderman and others. Fire safety scientists say that flame-retardant chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, infertility and other serious health problems, provide little fire safety benefits in furniture.
“Sadly, the results don’t surprise me,” added Hulick. “But I imagine that they’d surprise the millions of consumers currently gearing up to shop for the upcoming holidays. These chemicals already known to pose health problems in humans – specifically children – have no place in children’s products, especially now that many fire safety experts have said fire-retardants aren’t as effective as the chemical industry claims. These results just reinforce how important it is that CT lawmakers pass legislation to protect children from these harmful chemicals.”
Rep. Diana Urban (D-North Stonington), House Chair of the General Assembly’s Children’s Committee and a long-time proponent of protective laws for children added, “Yet again we find that children’s products contain chemicals that cause harm to our children. In this case a Disney Princess chair purchased in CT was found to be loaded with flame-retardants known to be hormone disrupters. At the very least, these products need to be evaluated for toxicity & labeled so that consumers can have information about the adverse effects of exposure. This is critically important as it is more than likely little ones will not only sit on the chair but also taste it!”
Dr. Stapleton’s analysis found four flame retardant chemicals (including two chemicals that are mixtures of various flame-retardants) in 38 of 42 products tested. Two products contained more than one chemical.
The chemicals found were:
- Firemaster 550 (found in 22 items): a mixture of four chemicals, studies have linked exposure to Firemaster 550 with obesity and disruption of the bodies’ natural hormone functioning. Hormone altering effects are especially troubling in children’s products, since children’s developing bodies are especially vulnerable to hormonal changes.
- TCPP (Tris, 15 items): animal studies have linked exposure to TCPP to genetic damage and changes in the length of the menstrual cycle.
- TDCPP (chlorinated Tris, 2 items) is identified as a chemical known to cause cancer by the state of California and the National Research Council. Studies have also linked exposures to genetic damage, effects on fertility and natural hormones, and damage to developing embryos. Health concerns forced companies to remove TDCPP from children’s pajamas in the 1970’s yet it is still widely used today in furniture and other products.
- Butylated Triphenyl Phosphate (1 item): According to the EPA, health concerns associated with exposures to Butylated Triphenyl Phosphate, a mixture of four chemicals, include decreased fertility and abnormal menstrual cycles.
According to Hulick, children are more vulnerable to toxic flame retardant chemicals than adults because of their behaviors and physical needs. Children put their hands in their mouths often, and touch whatever is near them. Young children crawl and play where dust containing high levels of flame-retardants settles in homes, daycares and schools. A (2011) study from UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research found that children carry on average three times higher levels of flame retardants in their bodies than the levels found in their mothers. Other recent studies show that children of color and children from low-income communities have higher levels of flame retardant chemicals in their bodies than levels found in white children.
“As a mom it’s scary to know that there are toxic chemicals in products I might buy at the store for my daughter,” said Michelle Noehren of Glastonbury, an active member of the Coalition whose daughter is two years old. “Parents want to protect their children from harm but when toxins like flame retardants are unregulated and running rampant in common kids products, you feel powerless. More needs to be done to protect the health and development of our babies and children. Parents want to feel confident that the products we purchase are safe for our kids.”
This year, California proposed a new flammability rule, TB 117-2013. The new rule is slated to go into effect on January 1, 2014. Companies may use the new standard to comply with the new rule immediately, but will have until January 1, 2015 before they are required to comply. The Business and Institutional Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) has stated, “…we believe the risks associated with the use of these [flame retardant] chemicals is greater than the hazard associated with the fire risk from furniture without fire retardants… Many furniture purchasers are looking for safer, more environmentally friendly products that do not contain chemicals of concern, including fire retardants.”
The Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut currently has more than 50 member partner groups working to protect kids from toxic chemicals in children’s products. CSHC is the group that fought for (and won) Connecticut’s BPA bans.
More information can be found here:Playing On Poisons: Harmful Flame Retardants In Children’s Furniture