|In 2010, Washington banned BPA from children's plastic food and beverage containers and sports bottles.|
|The Children's Safe Products Act was passed in 2008. It is a comprehensive policy requiring manufacturers to report their use of the worst-of-the-worst chemicals. The law also bans cadmium and phthalates. In 2013, manufacturers began to report chemical use which showed that over 5,000 children's products contain toxic chemicals.|
|In 2007, the state banned all products containing PBDEs and banned decaBDE from mattresses and residential furniture.|
|To see what bills are in play in Washington State this year, please check out our Current Session Bill Tracker.|
The chemical industry has long said that all of the chemicals in our household products are totally safeand anyone who believes otherwise is being ridiculously extreme. In fact, they're just silly chemophobes!
But we here at SAFER aren't motivated by baseless extremism or irrational fearswe're motivated by scientific data. And today, the numbers are in.
Thanks to groundbreaking legislation in Washington State, makers of kids' products have to report when they have chemicals that have been flagged as dangerous. And the data have been staggering.
Over 5,000 kids' products in Washington contain toxic chemicals everything from cadmium to phthalates to flame retardants. And these chemicals are in products with trusted labelseverything from Walmart to the Gap to H&M.
We applaud the manufacturers for reporting these chemicals in Washingtonand the other states that are considering similar legislation to address the products sold in their state. We're still working for a federal solution to move these toxic chemicals out of kids' products for good. But for now, we're happy to have the data on hand, so consumers can see what's in their products. Because our concern isn't about extremism or irrationalityit's about the toxic facts.
In the absence of strong legislation, finding out about toxics in products can be something of a do-it-yourself endeavor. Consumers depend on voluntary disclosures and their own sleuthing.
Unfortunately, all of the parents who rushed out to purchase these toxic-free products learned a hard lesson. According to data filed under Washington State's new disclosure law, Graco's kids products contain tetrabromobisphenol A, or TBBPA, a toxic flame retardant.
TBBPA is categorized as a persistent, bioacccumulative, and toxic chemical (PBT), has been shown to effect thyroid hormone activity, and may effect nervous system function as well.
Click through the web site belonging to the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and you'll read about dedication to providing Americans with creative and fun toys. And really, what's more fun than toys? But behind TIA's seemingly positive face lies a more nefarious goal: laser-focused dedication to the bottom line of the companies it represents, at the cost of the health of children. We have heard from organizations throughout the country who say that TIA lobbyists show up at state hearings, opposing rules that would give the public a true insight into the chemicals that are in toys.
Much like the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the TIA wields hundreds of thousands dollars in some states trying to defeat bills and policies which would protect the public from toxic chemicals like bisphenol-a (BPA), formaldehyde, cadmium and phthalates in our children's most prized possessions: toys. Children sleep with toys, put them in their mouths and even put them in their food. And sometimes those toys contain chemicals that can negatively affect children's cognitive function and development, skin and respiratory systems, and can increase the risk of cancer later in life.
Seven manufacturers reluctantly disclosed that the chemical BPA is present in 280 plastic toys, in the first chemical use reports submitted under Maine's Kid Safe Products Act, a chemical safety law bitterly opposed by the toy industry (pdf). BPA disrupts hormones in the body, harms brain development and reproductive health and may contribute to obesity and diabetes. Because of growing concern about threats to healthy childhood development, BPA has been removed from virtually all baby bottles and formula can linings. Why then is it OK that BPA is present in the toys that the children pick up once they put down their baby bottles?
Lead, arsenic, cadmium, formaldehyde, mercury. These are some of the toxic ingredients that are found in products that we put on our skin, in our hair, and on our lips that ultimately make it into our bodies where they can wreak havoc with endocrine systems, neural development, reproductive systems and contribute to higher levels of cancer.
These ingredients are unreported and hard to track, even for the most scrupulous consumer. Annie Leonard, who produced The Story of Cosmetics in partnership with The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said it best: "It turns out the important decisions don't happen when I choose to take a product off the shelf. They happen when companies and governments decide what should be put on the shelves."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees regulations governing cosmetics. However, regulation is a term used loosely, as manufacturers can use nearly every chemical and ingredient, man-made or natural, in a cosmetic without approval from the FDA.1
Recent reports show that toxic chemicals are found in every corner of our lives. They are being found in everything from foam in children's products to household cleaners and canned foods. This month, we rounded up some of the most significant studies from our partner organizations. These studies outline the ubiquity of toxic chemicals, and point the way toward solutions.
Fortunately, not all the news is bad. It was discovered that some products don't contain the worst-of-the-worst toxic chemicals, proving that it is possible to create these products with safer alternatives.
And when The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics announced that Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo still contains a harmful, formaldehyde-releasing chemical, the pressure of the news caused Johnson & Johnson to finally agree to remove it. While getting a harmful chemical out of a baby shampoo shouldn't require such action, it is encouraging to see forward motion away from toxic chemicals in some situations.
Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States
Hidden Hazards in the Nursery (pdf)
Many nursery items contain toxic Tris flame retardants.
In a study released today by the Washington Toxics Coalition and SAFER states we learn that many foam products in children's nurseries contain high levels of toxic flame retardants. These chemicals are associated with health concerns such as lower birth weights, changes in thyroid hormone levels which affect critical metabolic functions, and lower IQ in children.
As we discussed on this site in September, the world of chemical flame retardants is an alphabet soup of names and chemical mixtures. As quickly as some chemicals are being banned, the chemical industry is creating new combinations which skirt the rules.
Washington Toxics Coalition in partnership with Safer States purchased foam-containing baby and children's items from major retailers in six states. They sent samples of the foam to a Duke University research laboratory for testing.
The study found:
- Chlorinated Tris (TDCPP) was present in 16 of 20 products. TDCPP is the chemical that was voluntarily removed from children's pajamas in the 1970s because of health concerns.
- The level of flame retardants in products was high. The 17 products that contained toxic flame retardants had an average of 3.9% by foam weight.
- These flame retardants are not chemically bound to the foam, which means that they escape from the products and get into the air and household dust, endangering the health of all in the home.
The real key to banning toxic flame retardants is a comprehensive policy which identifies the worst-of-the-worst chemicals, and sets in place a plan for phase-out in favor of safer alternatives. The states have seen that using the laser-focus of an individual chemical ban hand-in-hand with sweeping comprehensive policy is the most effective way to reduce toxic exposure to adults and little ones alike. Several states will be taking up the charge of toxic flame retardants this year, following in the footsteps of states like New York, which banned TCEP, a toxic Tris flame retardant, in 2011.
It's no secret that the United States is battling overwhelming issues with obesity. Current statistics show that 34% of Americans are clinically obese, and 68% are overweight1, and the federal government has found that a third of American children are obese or overweight.
This is having a tremendous consequence on the nation as a whole, including an estimated economic cost of $270 billion per year in the United States, according to a report2 released this year. The costs come in need for medical care and the loss of worker productivity due to death and disability.
So, as a society, we are tackling obesity in all the expected ways. We are encouraging adults and children alike to eat less, eat better, move more, and to live healthy lifestyles. We are reevaluating school lunch programs, insisting that fast food restaurants provide healthy options, and encouraging healthy decisions at every juncture.
But what if some chemicals we were exposed to every day were making us fat? Enter obesogens. Science has recently uncovered that exposure to certain chemicals sets the stage for obesity.
Updated October 13, 2011
Toxic flame retardants are one of the most common sources of toxicity in our homes and our lives. They are used on everything from computer casings, to furniture, to carpeting, to children's products. "The problem is, they don't stay put," says Rebecca Williams, a reporter for The Environment Report1. "They leach out of products and they get into us."
Health concerns surrounding these chemicals—including everything from cancer to thyroid issues to reproductive harm—are serious enough that many groups including fire professionals are interested in getting toxic flame retardants out of our daily lives.
From a letter2 released by the International Association of Fire Fighters:
"Many studies involving fire fighters exposed to these and other toxic gases during active fire fighting, overhaul, and long term exposure from these chemicals penetrating protective gear, have found that fire fighters have a much greater risk of contracting cancer, heart and lung disease, and other debilitating diseases. While we support the concept of flame retardant chemicals, there are [safer] alternatives."
When we talk about toxic flame retardants on Safer States, we are referring to a whole group of chemicals that are used on household products for the purposes of slowing down combustion. Unlike some chemicals (cadmium, for example), the concern isn't with a specific single chemical. Instead, we reference a group of chemicals intended for a single purpose, nearly all of which have been shown to have harmful effects on children, fire fighters, fish and wildlife.
Persistent, bioaccumulative toxics, commonly known as PBTs, are a group of toxic chemicals that are joined together by some common features. Common PBTs in our lives include mercury, DDT, cadmium, lead, and several groups of chemicals including PCBs, toxic flame retardants (PBDEs) and dioxins. While these chemicals have many different uses in our lives, and different effects on our health, they are joined together by the following facts:
- PBTs are persistent. These chemicals are often used in manufacturing because of the exact features that cause great, great trouble in our environment: they don't break down, and they stay in the environment for a very long time. PCBs, for instance, are man-made mixtures of chlorinated compounds that are used in manufacturing because they are non-flammable, have a high boiling point, and are insoluble in water: all features that make them very difficult to dispose of.
- PBTs are bioaccumulative. Once these chemicals are ingested by living creatures, they build up in fatty tissue, and move up the food chain as they are consumed by bigger creatures, eventually making their way into our diets.
- PBTs are toxic. These chemicals have been associated with all manner of health effects: mercury affects the nervous system of developing fetuses, chronic exposure to DDT affects the liver and kidneys among other parts of the body, cadmium has been labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable carcinogen, lead exposure in adults results in neurological effects like seizures, PCBs pose a cancer risk, PBDEs have been found to be endocrine disruptors, and dioxins cause reproductive and developmental problems.
In 2010, dozens of laws were passed in statehouses and localities to protect children, families and workers from toxic chemicals. The laws ranged the gamut from bisphenol-A (BPA) restrictions, to laws promoting green chemicals in state buildings, to comprehensive laws moving toward a healthier, greener approach to chemicals in particular states.
As different as these laws were, nearly every one shared something in common: loud and highly paid opposition from the chemical industry, an industry which is not willing to yield to public outcry and scientific evidence and move toward a safer lifecycle for products which we use every day.
The chemical industry is an incredibly influential force in the United States, and around the world. The loudest voice in the industry is its trade association, the American Chemistry Council (ACC). It represents over 150 of the largest chemical manufacturers in this country, including the $46 billion chlorine industry and the plastics industry which touches every part of our lives, provides $379 billion in annual shipments and employs 850,000 workers .
Some of the largest companies in the chemical industry are BASF, Bayer Group, DuPont and Dow Chemical. Most of the large players produce chemicals which are used in the production of other products. For instance, among thousands of products, BASF makes dyes used in clothing manufacture, fungicides and insecticides used in farming, coatings and solvents used in electronics, foams used in construction and appliances, and even acid that is used to disinfect kegs and barrels in breweries and wineries.
Originally published by Washington Toxics Coalition.
This post was written by science teacher Garrison Dyer. As a teacher he sees first hand the toll developmental and learning disabilities have on children, families, and the classroom. He also knows some of these disabilities are linked to toxic chemicals and are preventable, which is why he supports getting toxic chemicals out of children's products.
I am not a father, but every day I look after 121 eleven to fourteen year-olds. As science teacher at Showalter Middle School in Tukwila, WA, I have grown to care about my student’s health, safety, and development immensely.