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Baby Products Can Expose Infants to a Toxic Chemical, Study Finds

Exposure levels were highest in households with more of the products, testing showed
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For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

WASHINGTON – Researchers found a fire-retardant chemical that could disrupt the hormone system in the urine of babies who were apparently exposed with baby products such as bassinets, car seats and nursery gliders, an alarming new study by Duke University reports. The chemical also can cause cancer.

The researchers tested the urine of 43 babies for metabolites (breakdown products) of the hormone-disrupting chemicals TDCIPP, also classified as a carcinogen by California regulators, and TPHP, or triphenyl phosphate, a suspected endocrine disruptor. Every infant in the study had evidence of TDCIPP in the urine, and 93 percent had a detectable TPHP metabolite. The study was recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

"The results reinforce the need for a thorough risk assessment on TDCIPP exposure in infants, particularly for infants with the highest exposure to TDCIPP," said Dr. Heather Stapleton, an associate professor at Duke University and author of the study.

The testing showed that families exposed to more baby items containing polyurethane foam had higher levels of a TDCIPP metabolite, and average levels of both chemicals’ metabolites were higher in the infants than the amounts previously measured in adults. Exposure to TPHP was not linked to baby products.

“It’s a big concern that the products we use to ensure that our infants and toddlers are comfortable and safe might be harmful to their health,” said Johanna Congleton, a senior scientist at EWG. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry that products specifically made for babies may be exposing their newborns to a substance linked to cancer and endocrine disruption.”

The Duke study underscores the urgent need to fix the nation’s broken chemical safety law, the nearly 40-year old Toxic Substances Control Act.

“What will it take for lawmakers to act?” added Congleton. “We need a regulatory system that guarantees that chemicals in products are safe and gives parents confidence that the items they buy are not toxic.”

Judy Levin, pollution prevention director at the Center for Environmental Health, noted that baby product makers are trying to block state legislation in California to require labeling the chemicals.

“Parents have a right to know when products for their children contain toxic fire retardant chemicals,” Levin said. “But the baby products industry is blocking a California bill that calls for labeling so parents can make informed choices when they shop for their children. This study shows that these labels are urgently needed to protect our children from these cancer-causing, dangerous chemicals.”

In the meantime, parents should shop for baby products that are free of fire retardants. Click here for the Center for Environmental Health’s Guide to Fire Retardants in Baby Products, which lists brands that do not use fire retardants.