Toxic metals like cadmium, mercury and antimony and organic compounds like phthalates are among more than 41 chemicals identified as harmful to children that are found in more than 5,000 children’s products, according to reports filed with the Washington State Department of Ecology. The toxins are linked to cancer, hormone disruption and reproductive problems.
Major manufacturers who reported using these chemicals include Wal-Mart, Gap, Gymboree, Hallmark and H&M. Some of these lobbied hard to defeat a Washington State bill, the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, that would have required manufacturers to stop using flame retardants in children’s products and find safer ways of manufacturing products for children.
The Washington Toxics Coalition analyzed the reports and compiled information from them. Some examples of the product categories that contained toxic chemicals:
- Hallmark party hats contain cancer-causing arsenic.
- Graco car seats contain the toxic flame retardant TBBPA (tetrabromobisphenol A).
- Claire’s cosmetics contain cancer-causing formaldehyde.
- Wal-Mart dolls contain hormone-disrupting bisphenol A.
The chemical reports are required under Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act, which requires major companies making children’s products to report the presence of toxic chemicals in their products. Major findings in the reports include:
- More than 5,000 products have been reported to date as containing a chemical on Washington State’s list of 66 Chemicals of High Concern to Children.
- Products reported so far include children’s clothing and footwear, personal care products, baby products, toys, car seats, and arts and craft supplies.
- Toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium, cobalt, antimony and molybdenum were reported, with cobalt being the metal most often reported.
- Manufacturers reported using phthalates in clothing, toys, bedding and baby products.
- Other chemicals reported include solvents like ethylene glycol and methyl ethyl ketone, and a compound used in silicone known as octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane.
Wal-Mart, a major opponent of the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, reported a total of 459 instances of products containing chemicals including arsenic, cadmium, phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA) and mercury.
Washington is the only State currently requiring manufacturers to reveal toxic chemicals in their products, though Minnesota has published a list of “priority” chemicals that are used in products sold in the State. The nine priority chemicals are lead, cadmium, bisphenol A, formaldehyde, two brominated flame retardants and three phthalates. Eight of these are also found Washington’s list. These are known carcinogens and hormone disrupters and in addition to providing danger through exposure they build up in the environment.