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Report: Toxic Chemicals Found in Thousands of Children's Products

Walmart among major manufacturers selling products without any "standards"

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Thousands of name brand children's products that line the shelves of big chain stores contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive problems, according to an analysis released Wednesday by watchdog group the Washington Toxics Coalition.

Children's car seats were among the products identified as containing toxic flame retardants. (Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/ Flickr) The study, called Chemicals Revealed, identified over 5000 children's products such as clothing, car seats and personal care products that include developmental or reproductive toxins and carcinogens.

"The data shows store shelves remain full of toxic chemicals that we know are a concern for children’s health,” said report author Erika Schreder, science director for the Washington Toxics Coalition.

The group analyzed a series of reports filed under Washington State’s Children’s Safe Products Act of 2008, which requires major children's product manufacturers to report the presence of toxic chemicals in their products—though not the exact product itself. Washington State is the first state to have a comprehensive chemical reporting program.

Some examples include: Hallmark party hats containing cancer-causing arsenic, Graco car seats containing the toxic flame retardant TBBPA (tetrabromobisphenol A) and Walmart dolls containing hormone-disrupting bisphenol A.

"For most products in our homes, including children’s products, we simply don’t have standards," added Schreder. "Manufacturers are allowed to use just about anything they want to."

The study identified a number of major manufacturers who reported using the chemicals in their products including Walmart, Gap, Gymboree, Hallmark, and H&M.

Walmart alone reported a total of 459 instances of products containing chemicals including arsenic, cadmium, phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and mercury.

The retail giant has fought particularly hard against consumer protection legislation in Washington. Most recently, the company led a coalition against the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act (HB 1294), which failed in the state legislature but would have required manufacturers to stop using toxic flame retardants in children’s products.

"It is particularly disturbing to see the large numbers of products reported by Walmart at the same time the company has been working to defeat Washington’s bill that would address some of the most problematic uses," said Schreder. "Companies like Walmart need to show they’re serious about children’s health by getting toxic chemicals out of their products and supporting common-sense legislation."

"The biggest thing that this [report] does is to demonstrate a system that’s broken, and to ask for better protection," added Sarah Doll of Safer States, which is part of a network of environmental health groups nationwide.

Some other major findings from the reports include:

  • More than 5,000 products have been reported to date as containing a chemical on Washington State’s list of 66 Chemicals of High Concern to Children.
  • Products reported so far include children’s clothing and footwear, personal care products, baby products, toys, car seats, and arts and craft supplies.
  • Toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium, cobalt, antimony, and molybdenum were reported, with cobalt being the metal most often reported.
  • Manufacturers reported using phthalates in clothing, toys, bedding, and baby products.
  • Other chemicals reported include solvents like ethylene glycol and methyl ethyl ketone, and a compound used in silicone known as octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane.

You can view the full analysis of the reports here.

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