The use of chemical flame retardants in children’s products, including furniture, pillows and pads, and pajamas, has been an established practice for decades — to prevent serious burn injury to children. In the 1970s, however, researchers began to examine how exposure to some of these chemicals in children’s pajamas affected the health and safety of America’s children.
The result was the removal of a class of flame retardants, called Tris phosphate chemicals, from children’s pajamas. This removal was a major victory for advocates of public safety and against dangerous products. The Tris chemicals were found to be a likely carcinogen, as well as posing other health dangers, including possible neurological problems, as well as fertility issues. These chemicals were removed under pressure from scientists and the public in the 1970s.
Yet now, a new shows that these chemicals remain prevalent in a wide array of American baby products.
In the study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology, researchers looked at 101 baby products made with polyurethane foam. These products included nursing pillows, highchairs, changing pads, sleep positioners (a dangerous product in its own right), portable mattresses, rocking chairs, and car seats.
Eighty of these 101 products contained chemical flame retardants. Fourteen of them contained TCEP, a flame retardant classified by the State of California as a known carcinogen. Four of the 101 products contained Penta-BDE, a flame retardant banned in many other countries which accumulates in human tissue over time. In most of the products, these chemicals made up between three and five percent of the weight of the foam, but in some cases, up to twelve percent of the weight came from the flame retardants. Specifically, the s study found:
Based on exposure estimates conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), we predict that infants may receive greater exposure to TDCPP from these products compared to the average child or adult from upholstered furniture, all of which are higher than acceptable daily intake levels of TDCPP set by the CPSC. Future studies are therefore warranted to specifically measure infants exposure to these flame retardants from intimate contact with these products and to determine if there are any associated health concerns.
As noted by some critics, the research did not take the critical next step – it did not study the infants and children who use such products to determine whether they were absorbing these dangerous chemicals from the products. But the study did suggest that these infants and children were exposed to the chemicals at a rate higher than that recommended by the government – already a fairly lax standard. Our child injury lawyers do not need further evidence, however – it does not take a study to know that chemicals that are dangerous when present in children’s clothing are also dangerous when present in children’s pillows, chairs, and padding.
Tris chemicals were not banned by the government when they were removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s. Indeed, it is overwhelmingly difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency to obtain bans or restrictions on chemicals used in the U.S. As an example, asbestos is not yet banned, in spite of the conclusive evidence that it causes cancer and other fatal diseases. Indeed, under current federal standards, manufacturers are not even required to indicate on the label that flame retardants were used, let alone to identify which chemical flame retardants a product contains.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, like the EPA, has also fallen far short on this issue. The CPSC has had a federal flammability standard in the works for sixteen years, with no end to the process in sight. When questioned, a spokesman for the CPSC simply stated that further research is still needed.
The time when such statements were sufficient is long past. The products liability attorneys of Passen & Powell join with others in demanding that the CPSC and the EPA take action to remove these toxic chemicals intended for use by the youngest and most vulnerable of our citizens.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago toxic exposure lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.