Status: 2012-13 - In progress
2010-11 - Successfully completed
The problem: Because of California flammability standard TB117, toxic flame retardant chemicals are used in many baby products containing foam. Children and infants are most sensitive to the adverse health effects of these chemicals, some of which are carcinogens and developmental toxins. Babies are born with these chemicals in their bodies and get a further dose from their mother's milk and exposure to baby products.
Stage 1: Research Collaboration
Green Science Policy partnered with Heather Stapleton of Duke University and Susan Klosterhaus of the San Francisco Estuary Institute to collect foam samples from 101 baby products and identify the flame retardants used. We found that 80% of nursing pillows, changing table pads, baby carriers, car seats, and other baby products tested contained chemical flame retardants which are either known to be associated with adverse health effects or lack adequate health information.
Stage 2: Publications, Presentations, and White Papers
Initial results and policy analyses were presented at the Dioxin 2010 conference in San Antonio and published in Organohalogen Compounds:
- Stapleton H, Klosterhaus S, Blum A, Webster T. (2010) Identification of flame retardants in polyurethane foam collected from baby products, 30th International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants, San Antonio, United States.
Daley R, Shaw S, Birnbaum L, Blum A. (2010) It’s all about penta: Informing decision-makers about the properties of penta-BDE and its replacements . Organohalogen Compounds 72: 1673-1678.
The final study was published in Environmental Science & Technology in May 2011:
- Stapleton HM, Klosterhaus S, Keller A, Ferguson PL, van Bergen S, Cooper E, Webster TF, Blum A. (2011) Identification of flame retardants in polyurethane foam collected from baby products. Environmental Science & Technology 45: 5323-5331.
Stage 3: Communication of Findings to Decision-Makers and the Public
We have written a Safe Kids Campaign Guide and Brochure that give an overview of the flame retardant chemicals used in baby products and their health effects, steps to reduce exposure, how to get involved in the campaigns to replace TB117 and reform TSCA, and a list of baby products whose manufacturers state do not contain added flame retardants. Informed parents can choose to buy safer products and can bring their concerns to manufacturers and decision makers.
Policy Outcomes to Date
Prompted in part by our study, the Consumer Product Safety Commission completed testing showing lack of fire hazard from baby products. The Bureau proposed to exempt four baby products from TB117.
We, along with a dozen NGO representatives, wrote the Bureau in support of the proposed exemption, which was then successfully implemented.
As of December of 2010, infant carriers, strollers, nursing pillows, and bassinets are exempted from TB117, which means that manufacturers do not need to add toxic flame retardants to the foam of these products.
We are continuing to work with the Bureau to support their proposal of granting a TB117 exemption for 14 additional baby products in 2013:
Baby walkers, booster seats, car seat pads, car seats, changing pads, floor play mats, highchairs, highchair pads, cradle swings for indoor use, infant seats, infant soothing bouncers, nursing pads, playpen pads, playpen side (bedrail) pads.
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