Press Releases

Walmart Pulls Baby Products Tainted with Cancer-Causing Chemical, But Only in California

Oakland, CA-Following the announcement by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) of test results finding a cancer-causing flame retardant chemical in baby and children’s products sold by leading national retailers, Walmart late yesterday stated they would stop sales of the products, but only in California.

“We welcome Walmart’s decision to protect California children, but parents nationwide have a right to know when baby products contain a cancer-causing chemical,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “We intend to continue pushing companies to eliminate harmful flame retardant chemicals in all products for children nationwide.” Yesterday CEH launched legal action against Walmart, Target, Babies R Us, Kmart and other retailers and producers of products tainted with chlorinated Tris, a cancer-causing flame retardant that was banned from children’s pajamas in the 1970s but is still used today.

In an email yesterday, Dianna Gee, a Senior Manager of Media Relations at Walmart stated, “As we can look into the facts around this and confirm compliance with Prop 65 labeling requirements, we are notifying our stores in California to remove the items from our sales floor, and we are working to restrict online sales of these products in California.”

Products sold by Walmart that were identified by CEH yesterday as containing chlorinated Tris in violation of California law include a dexbaby brand changing pad, a Foundations brand crib mattress and an Angeles brand crib mattress. Under California consumer protection law (Prop 65), products that expose consumers to cancer-causing chemicals like Tris must carry a warning label. None of the products purchased at Walmart or the other stores and tested by CEH were labeled as such.

CEH has previously found other children’s products in violation of the law at Walmart, including children’s jewelry, lunchboxes, and other products. In May 2007, Walmart pulled vinyl baby bibs off of store shelves nationwide, after CEH found high levels of lead in the bibs, in violation of California law. At the time, there was no federal standard for lead in vinyl products for children.

In recent studies, chlorinated Tris has been linked to hormone disruption, developmental toxicity, cancer, and other harmful effects. Studies have shown that children have the highest levels of flame retardants in their bodies. Further, regulators say that chemical flame retardants do not provide fire safety benefits in foam products. An analysis by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission found that foam treated with chemical flame retardants “…did not offer a practically significantly greater level of open- flame safety than did untreated foams.”

CEH has a sixteen-year track record of protecting communities from the health impacts of toxic pollution and has previously uncovered lead and other toxic health threats to children from wood playground structures, toys, vinyl baby bibs and lunchboxes, imported candies, children’s jewelry, children’s medicines, and many other products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.