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Banned Flame Retardants Are In Many Baby Products: Study

You may unwittingly be exposing your bundle of joy to toxic chemicals. What's a parent to do?

burned baby doll head

Hide your children: If the BPA doesn't get them, the flame retardants will. A new study in Environmental Science & Technology reports that many baby products contain flame retardant chemicals—just in case, presumably, you accidentally light your baby on fire.

The study tested 101 baby products containing polyurethane foam (including nursing pillows, strollers, and high chairs) and found that 80 of them contained flame retardant chemicals that are known as probable carcinogens and hormone disruptors. Some are linked to lowered IQs and brain damage.

One of the flame retardants found in five samples (PentaPBDE) was supposed to be phased out by manufacturers in 2004. Whoops. The newer flame retardants aren't any better. One common flame retardant found in newer products—chlorinated tris—is also known as a possible carcinogen.

This study didn't examine how much kids are exposed to flame retardants while using the tested products—but we do know that they can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled via dust particles on childrens' hands. According to the NRDC, children do carry markedly higher levels of flame retardants in their bodies than adults.

Do you have to make the horrible, Sophie-like choice between a burned baby or a brain damaged one? That seems unacceptable. In the meantime, as much as you may love your polyurethane foam mattress, skip on the substance for your kids, and stick with down, wool, cotton, or other alternatives. And hold your breath until you find out that what other toxic chemicals they've been sneaking into your baby products.

[Image: Flickr user Ella Patenall]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

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  • koann Skrzyniarz

    Great article, Ariel!  We'll be exploring this topic among others at the Sustainable Brands conference coming up in just a few weeks in Monterey.  Can you come?  Happy to share details if you' haven't checked out the outstanding program for this (our 5th!) year.  The good news is, the increasing awareness of toxicity as a major consumer products issue creates many avenues for innovation for companies and we're looking forward to helping nudge along that effort along with the other paths to innovating more environmentally and socially relevant brands.  So many great examples!