Report: More Than 5,000 Childrens’ Products Contain Toxic Chemicals

New data from popular toy and children’s clothing manufacturers submitted to Washington State shows that more than 5,000 of them contain traces of at least one toxic chemical. These products are sold by national manufacturers that also operate in Kentucky.

Washington State has a law that’s just now being phased in, requiring manufacturers to report the presence of toxic chemicals in products designed for children. The first year of data is in, and national manufacturers like Wal-Mart, Target, Graco, Gap, H&M and Gymboree reported that a number of their products include heavy metals or dangerous chemicals. Some of them got into the products accidentally; some—like flame retardants and phthalates—were intentionally added.

The law identified 66 chemicals that the state of Washington determined were of the greatest concern for children, as well as were likely to be in children’s products. Besides being more at risk because their bodies and brains are still developing, children have a greater likelihood of coming into contact with these chemicals because they often put toys, clothes and furniture in their mouths.

The law doesn’t require companies to disclose which specific products contain the chemicals, but they do have to report the product category and the chemical. The Washington Toxics Coalition is the advocacy group that analyzed the data; they report findings like Hallmark party hats that contain arsenic, cosmetics from Claire’s Accessories that have formaldehyde and Walmart dolls with biphenol A, a hormone disrupter.

The companies don’t report the quantities or concentrations of the chemicals they’re using, but Washington Toxics Coalition Science Director Erika Schreder says any amount is too much.

“So really these chemicals are unnecessary in children’s products,” she said. “There’s no reason we should see any of them.”

Schreder says Washington’s law shows that it’s not overly burdensome for companies to reveal what’s in their products.

“That Washington State has made it so far in providing this data shows that this is really a doable requirement, and something that provides really valuable information both for consumers and for policymakers,” she said.

And disclosure is just the first step. Schreder’s organization and others across the country—including in Kentucky—are pushing for federal reforms to ban toxic chemicals from consumer products.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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