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Toxic chemicals can be found in common baby products, according to a new report released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “The Right Start: The Need to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals from Baby Products” documents toxic chemicals, including phthalates and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in teethers, bath books, and sleep accessories.
“A child’s first few years are an exciting time for parents who hope that their child starts her or his life happy and healthy,” said Keith Feikema, representative of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “Unfortunately, parents do not have the information they need to adequately protect their children from toxic chemicals. Our government should ensure parents have this information, and ultimately remove toxic chemicals from children’s products.”
The Arizona PIRG Education Fund tested seven infant sleep accessories, such as mattress pads and sleep wedges, for the presence of PBDEs or toxic flame retardants, and eighteen other children’s products, such as bath books and teethers, for the presence of a set of chemicals known as phthalates. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund found that:
• Three of the seven infant sleep accessories tested contained toxic flame retardants in the foam materials. For example, the Leachco Sleep‘n Secure 3-in-1 Infant Sleep Positioner and the First Years’ Air Flow Sleep Positioner contained these chemicals.
• Fifteen of the eighteen bath books, teethers, bath toys and other products tested for phthalates contained these chemicals in their materials. For example, a teether made by Gund contained DBP, a type of phthalate classified as a reproductive toxicant.
• One product-- Sassy’s “Who Loves Baby? Photo Book”-- was labeled “phthalate-free.” The Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s research discovered two types of phthalates, DEHP and DBP, in this product.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are a set of chemicals used to slow the spread of fire. These chemicals have been linked to a host of health concerns, including impaired learning and memory, reproductive defects, cancer, and impaired immune systems. In addition, levels of these chemicals found in the breast milk of American women and some fetuses are approaching levels shown to impair learning and cause behavior problems in mice. Two of these chemicals have been banned in nine states, and the federal government has taken action to stop new production of these chemicals. However, the federal government still allows importation of products containing these chemicals.
Phthalates are a family of chemicals used in many plastic products to improve flexibility and in personal care products to bind fragrance to the product. These chemicals have been linked to premature birth, reproductive defects, and early onset of puberty. People are exposed to phthalates through everyday contact with household and personal care products, as well as through contact with indoor air and dust.
In the absence of government information and protection, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund recommended that parents avoid allowing children to put polyvinylchlroide (PVC) plastic toys in their mouths, instead using glass containers for food and drink storage when possible. In washing plastic products, parents were advised to avoid harsh dishwashing soap and hot water, both of which speed up the leaching process. For a tip sheet and other information, parents can visit www.safefromtoxics.org.
“Parents cannot be expected to deal with these issues on their own,” said Feikema. “The U.S. government must act to ensure that manufacturers and industrial users provide the public with adequate information about their products and ultimately ensure that products on the market are not potentially harmful by phasing out the most dangerous chemicals, particularly from children’s products.”
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