Flaming Mad About Risky Chemicals in Baby Products

In a paper published last month, Duke University researcher Heather Stapleton and colleagues collected and tested foam from 101 baby products, including changing table pads, nursing pillows, car seats, and others. The research for the first time analyzed baby products for the presence of chemical flame retardants, including chemicals that are banned, known to be toxic, or have never been evaluated for their potential health impacts.

The findings were disturbing: 79% of the products contained toxic or untested flame retardants. Some baby products contained as many as three different chemical flame retardants. And since none of the products pose a fire hazard, these risky chemicals are completely unnecessary in the products that babies are exposed to every day. As CEH’s MOMS Project Director Mary Brune told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I can’t fathom that sitting in a glider, rocking my daughter or son and nursing them on a pillow poses some imminent fire danger. This should be something we have a choice about.”

Among the flame retardant chemicals the study found in baby products were:


  • Tris, a chemical the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission calls a probable human carcinogen;
  • TCEP, a chemical the state of California has identified as a probable carcinogen;
  • PentaBDE, a neurotoxin banned by international treaty and linked to numerous other health problems, including adverse reproductive outcomes, endocrine effects, lowered IQ, and adverse hormonal changes.


Faced with the study results, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and a leading expert on toxins told CBS News (see the video, below), “I am concerned about, not only cancer, but reproductive or neurological effects as well.”

On the other hand, when they were asked about the study, baby products makers Evenflo and Snuggli said that the study didn’t address “exposure or risk.” In other words, we’re going to keep using these risky, unnecessary chemicals in products used by infants and babies.

To be fair, baby products companies are bound to meet the California standard that requires flame retardants in these products. But instead of sticking their heads in the sand, baby products companies should take the lead in advocating for a sane, health protective standard that allows for safer fire protection without risky chemicals.

That’s why we’re asking 6 influential baby product companies to take steps to eliminate these flame retardant chemicals, by calling on California authorities to change the state’s standards. If you want safer products for infants and babies, take action by sending a letter to baby product manufacturers today!

And if you’re looking for safer baby products, check out the Green Science Policy Institute’s “Safe Kids Buyer’s Guide.”