Chemicals used as flame retardants (used in coating certain plastics and textiles to slow down the spread of fire) have been discovered to be in baby products such as high chairs, car seats and nursing pillows. These chemicals have long been believed to have cancer-causing or carcinogenic properties, according to a study.
In the 1970s, flame retardants such as chlorinated tris (short for organic compound trishydroxymethylaminomethane)were already found in children’s pajamas and were banned. Chlorinated tris has become associated with the following cancers: • Brain cancer • Liver cancer • Kidney cancer • Testicular cancer
According to a study by Duke University published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal, 80 percent of baby products tested positive for containing flame retardants. More than one third of these products were found to have chlorinated tris. The rest were found to have TCEP, a confirmed carcinogen. Penta-BDE, which clogs human tissues and which was banned from being used by manufacturers in certain states in 2004 was also found in some baby products.
Manufacturing associations state that these products of theirs abide by “tough federal safety standards,” which the experts refute with the results of their research. Said Dr. Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, “Not only do these safety standards contain flammability requirements, they also restrict the use of substances that are harmful or toxic to which children might be exposed,”
Experts are alarmed at the idea of infant products containing these harmful chemicals, and the lack of families’ awareness regarding the issue. Despite this, other experts also defend the saving properties of these chemicals. Florida Institute of Technology chemistry professor Gordon L. Nelson says that while these may pose a health risk, they have also saved the lives of many because of their flame retardant properties, in particular those in upholstered furniture. Nelson also pointed out that majority of the products tested were manufactured even before 2002, around the time that Penta-BDE was phased out.