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Over 5,000 Children's Products Contain Toxic Chemicals Linked to Cancer and Hormone Disruption

  • Cadmium, mercury and phthalates—oh my!
    By Kathleen Schuler
    Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, May 1, 2013
    Straight to the Source

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Appetite For a Change page.

Over 5000 children's products contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption and reproductive problems, including the toxic metals, cadmium, mercury and antimony, as well as phthalates and solvents. A new report by the Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States reveals the results of manufacturer reporting to the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Makers of kids' products reported using 41 of the 66 chemicals identified by WA Ecology as a concern for children's health. Major manufacturers who reported using the chemicals in their products include Walmart, Gap, Gymboree, Hallmark, H & M and others. They use these chemicals in an array of kids' products, including clothing, footwear, toys, games, jewelry, accessories, baby products, furniture, bedding, arts and crafts supplies and personal care products. Besides exposing kids in the products themselves, some of these chemicals, for example toxic flame retardants, build up in the environment and in the food we eat.

Examples of product categories reported to contain toxic chemicals include:

  • Hallmark party hats containing cancer-causing arsenic
  • Graco car seats containing the toxic flame retardant TBBPA (tetrabromobisphenol A)
  • Claire's cosmetics containing cancer-causing formaldehyde
  Walmart dolls containing hormone-disrupting bisphenol A

The chemical reports are required under Washington State's Children's Safe Products Act of 2008. A searchable database of chemical use reports filed with the Washington State Department of Ecology is available at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/cspa/search.html.

Like Washington, the Minnesota Department of Health has published a list or priority chemicals in children's products. Eight of the nine chemicals on this list are also on the Washington list. The nine priority chemicals are lead, cadmium, bisphenol A, formaldehyde, two brominated flame retardants and three phthalates. However, in Minnesota, manufacturers are not required to report if they use a priority chemical in a children's product-so both states agencies and consumers are in the dark when it comes to these chemicals.  Last month Minnesota's Senate Commerce Committee voted down the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2013, a bill that would have required such reporting.   


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