Emerging issue: toxic substances in children’s products

The issue of toxic substances in children’s products may not be so new but it is getting more and more attention with each holiday season. It is difficult to substantiate a claim that the problem is getting worse but transfer of more plastics fabrication to developing countries, especially in Asia, and the ready availability of recycled plastic containing toxic substances in such countries may be contributing to the problem. Low cost personal care products labeled as appropriate for children may also be formulated with low cost ingredients that may not be considered appropriate use on for children.

In any case the problem is now attracting the attention of governments which means that, unless the children’s product industries takes rapid steps to self-regulate, there will be more testing and regulation of chemicals in toys and other children’s products in the months and years ahead.

One of the posters attracting attention at the recent SETAC conference (see articles below) was from the Washington State Department of Ecology and entitled Analysis of Children’s Products for Chemicals of High Concern to Children. Under the State’s Children’s Safe Products Act, manufacturers must report to the State on any of a list of 66 chemicals that are contained in their products intended for children. The list of chemicals, along with a summary of toxicity and exposure information, can be found at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=173-334-130

The State publishes the data in an easy to use database with appropriate caveats:

  • Reports are based on data provided to [the State Department of] Ecology by manufacturers.
  • The presence of a chemical in a children’s product does not necessarily mean that the product is harmful to human health or that there is any violation of existing safety standards or laws.
  • The reporting triggers are not health-based values.
  • The data should not be used determine the safety of an individual product.

Despite the caveats, parents and activists are almost certainly going to wonder why some of these substances are necessary at any concentration in children’s products.

The database is accessible to the public at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/cspareporting/

We’ll be discussing toxic substances in children’s products in a future issue of Gallon Environment Letter. A free subscription, with somewhat reduced content, is available by sending your email address to subscriptions@gallonletter.ca. Details on full subscriptions are available at http://www.cialgroup.ca/subscription.htm

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