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Thousands of children’s products contain toxic chemicals, report says

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 11:30 a.m. CDT

WASHINGTON — More than 5,000 products, including clothing, toys and bedding, contain toxic chemicals that could be dangerous for children’s health, yet stores still stock them and consumers know little about their content, an advocacy group reported this week.

“For most products in our homes, including children’s products, we simply don’t have standards,” said Erika Schreder, science director for the Washington Toxics Coalition and author of the report released Wednesday based on toxic chemical data from Washington state. “Manufacturers are allowed to use just about anything they want to.”

The report, called “Chemicals Revealed,” identified more than 5,000 products such as footwear, car seats and arts and crafts supplies that include developmental or reproductive toxins and carcinogens. Those include such toxic metals as mercury, cadmium, cobalt, antimony and molybdenum. Manufacturers also reported using phthalates in clothing, toys, bedding and baby products. Phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals, most are often used to make plastics pliable.

The Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States, a coalition of consumer advocacy groups, looked at products sold in Washington state. The state in 2008 began requiring retailers to report whether they’re selling products that contain one of 66 chemicals identified by the state as being of high concern to children.

The legislation required major companies making children’s products to report to the Washington State Department of Ecology beginning last year. The report covers certain children’s products sold in the state from June 1, 2012, to March 1, 2013.

Major retailers who reported using the chemicals in their products include Walmart, Gap, Gymboree, Hallmark and H&M.

Retailers aren’t required to report the exact product, however, just product categories. The report identified Hallmark party hats containing cancer-causing arsenic, for example, but because of the limited data that manufacturers and retailers are required to disclose, it’s impossible to specify the exact party hat.

Among the other products identified in the report: Graco car seats containing the toxic flame retardant tetrabromobisphenol A, Claire’s cosmetics containing cancer-causing formaldehyde, and Walmart dolls containing hormone-disrupting bisphenol A.

The groups praised manufacturers and retailers for providing even limited data, saying that the information is critical for understanding the presence of toxic chemicals. Yet to truly protect children, Schreder said, manufacturers need to identify safer ways to make their products and stop using harmful chemicals. The organization also backs efforts to ban two fire retardants in Washington state.

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