Back in the 1970s, consumers were shocked to learn that a flame retardant called Tris had been contaminating children’s pajamas with toxic chemicals. Clothing manufacturers stopped using it when the risk became publicized, but it was never officially banned in the U.S.
Now a report from Duke University shows that in recent tests, eight out of 10 commonly-sold baby products contain high levels of the retardant, long suspected as a carcinogen and linked to brain damage in infants and young children. More than a third of the products – all of which contained polyurethane foam – also tested positive for penta-PBDEs, neurotoxins that were banned in 2004 when it was found that toddlers with high levels of them had lower IQs and reduced motor skills. (Chemical flame retardants are typically added directly into polyurethane-foam mixtures, rather than applied to finished products, to meet flammability requirements.)
Products tested in this case included car seats, changing pads, and baby carriers, but polyurethane foam is also used widely in the manufacture of both crib and adult-sized mattresses and bedding.
Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, called the Duke findings a “wake-up call” for parents and manufacturers – and we agree.
“I am concerned about not only cancer,” Birnbaum says, “but reproductive or neurological effects as well – the developing brain.” Could there be any more urgent issue for parents or anyone concerned with the well-being of children?
Chemical companies, of course, continue to claim that their products are safe, and manufacturers defend their use (“protecting children is Evenflo’s number one priority…[we use chemicals to] meet mandatory federal and state flammability requirements”). It’s the same old story, bringing to mind cigarette manufacturers’ claims that smoking wasn’t a health threat until forced by government agencies to admit the danger.
There’s a safer alternative, of course: mattresses and other products made from CERTIFIED ORGANIC MATERIALS. Lifekind uses Texas-grown certified-organic cotton, 100%-natural rubber latex made from USDA-certified organic sap, and wool grown in California for flammability protection, PERIOD. Anything less is putting your own safety and the safety of your family at risk.
As a result of the study, Duke lead researcher Heather Stapleton told reporters she’s ridding her home of products that contain polyurethane foam and replacing them with safer products. Shouldn’t we all be doing the same?