Suspected Toxins Found in Baby Products

New study finds flame retardants in 80% of tested products

By Daisy Lin
|  Wednesday, May 18, 2011  |  Updated 5:34 PM PDT
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Suspected Toxic Chemicals Found in Baby Products

A baby carrier that may contain fire retardants.

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Suspected Toxic Chemicals Found in Baby Products

Dr. Bruce Hensel reports on a new study that found flame retardants in most products for babies and toddlers.
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A new study finds hazardous chemicals in products made for babies and toddlers.

A longstanding law in California requires consumer products be extremely fire resistant. The result is that manufacturers add fire retardants to those products to meet those standards.

These fire retardants are supposed to make things burn slower, and thereby protect people.  However, scientists are raising a red flag, saying that these chemicals are an even bigger danger to children.

Noelio Figueroa and Elizabeth Gonzalez brought their daughters to a health clinic to get them vaccinated. 

“It’s their shots today, so we’re really concerned of their health. And we’re trying to keep them safe,” Gonzalez said.

Little did they know about a potential health hazard to their kids lurking in everyday baby products, in the form of halogenated flame retardants -- chemicals that are added to furniture, foam, and baby products so that they burn slower in a fire.

Ana Mascarenas, Policy Coordinator, Physicians for Social Responsibility, said these fire retardants are ubiquitous.

“If you go and you check your sofa, you check your baby product and it has a label that says, “meets California’s TB117”; If you’re in California, that’s almost certain, that those toxic chemicals are present,” she said.

What the labels don’t say is that those chemicals have been shown in scientific studies to be toxic,  causing developmental delays in animals and people.

Dr. Harpreet Malhi is a doctor and mother who is deeply concerned about this.

“There is a study that shows that there is a link to exposure of flame retardants, to the decrease of IQ’s in children,” Dr. Malhi said.

The latest study published in the Environmental Science and Technology Journal tested samples from car seats, breast feeding pillows, changing pads, high chairs, and other items made with polyurethane foam. It found that 80% of products tested contained chemical flame retardants.

More than a third of the baby products tested contained a flame retardant known as chlorinated Tris, which was removed from children’s pajamas in the 70’s because it has the potential to cause genetic mutations.

A quick look at the health clinic where we visited found many of the baby seats had the flammability tag attached.

“Every second we are exposed to all these chemicals and it’s much worse for children because it impacts their bodies more than an adult,” Mahli said.

Scientists are urging lawmakers to protect children from these chemicals and user safer alternatives.

Here in California, a law that would have made manufacturers label the products that contained fire retardants, was voted down a few weeks ago in a committee by eight Southern California legislators.

Representatives for the top manufacturers of brominated flame retardants, BSEF, say the levels of fire retardants found in humans are "well below levels of concern."

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