Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why we need the NC Toxic Free Kids Act

Photo by Wallula Junction via Flickr.
by Fawn Pattison, Executive Director

I often hear parents lamenting how hard it is to make healthy choices for our kids when we live in a "toxic soup." There is not enough information about the products we buy to know which products are safest, and which contain potentially hazardous chemicals - like the toxic flame retardants in kids' carseats. Raising healthy children today, and preventing a lifetime of chronic health problems in the future, depends on a healthy environment for our babies and children.

The NC Toxic Free Kids Act, H 848, filed by Reps Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) and Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) would tackle that problem head-on by requiring manufacturers of children's products to take three notorious hazards out of their products. They would also have to notify the state when their products contain other toxic chemicals listed on a new Priority Chemicals List.

Here's why we need the NC Toxic Free Kids Act:
  1. Children are not little adults. Their bodies are developing at an amazing rate. Pound for pound, they drink more water, breathe more air, and ingest more food than adults do. That means they’re also exposed to much higher concentrations of the chemical pollution all around us.1
  2. Cancer is on a slow and steady increase in American children, rising 22% between 1975 and 2004.2
  3. Autism now affects 1 in 88 American children, and 1 in 54 boys.3 Exposure to toxic chemicals is an important factor in these devastating diseases.
Hazardous Chemicals in Children's Products

Harmful chemicals continue to be found in children’s products, even though safer alternatives are available. Toxic chemicals known to be used in the products that children use every day include:
There is no comprehensive system in place to assure that highly hazardous chemicals are not being used in children’s products. That means many toxic chemicals are ending up in a place they shouldn’t: our children’s bodies.

The Toxic Free Kids Act will use market-driven solutions to put an end to the toxic treadmill in the products that children use every day.

Priority Chemicals from the Toxic Free Kids Act
  1. Bisphenol A  (BPA)  is a hormone disrupting chemical found in polycarbonate plastic. BPA is widely used in food packaging, including baby food and formula. Exposure to BPA is associated with increased risk for many health problems,4 including infertility, heart disease, obesity and cancer.
  2. TRIS flame retardants are used in textiles such as nursery furniture, and foam products like nursing pillows and the padding in carseats. Exposure to TRIS flame retardants has been linked to cancer 5 and harm to the developing brain 6.
  3. Phthalates  are used as softeners in PVC plastic, and as fragrance binders in cosmetics like baby shampoo. Exposure is linked to7 reproductive health problems, respiratory problems and cancer.
The ultimate solution to our toxic soup is a comprehensive federal system that evaluates chemicals for health and safety problems before they go onto the market - and into the hands (and mouths) of our children. In the absence of a strong federal toxics law, states have a responsibility to act to protect our future. The Toxic Free Kids Act is a great first step.

References Cited:

1 Ruth Etzel and Sophie J Balk, eds. 2012. Pediatric Environmental Health. 3rd Edition. American Academy of Pediatrics.
2 National Cancer Institute, 2008. Fact Sheet on Childhood Cancers.
3 Jon Baio, 2012. “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders —Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, UnitedStates, 2008.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). March 30, 2012 / 61(SS03);1-19
vom Saal et al. 2007. “Chapel Hill bisphenol A expert panel consensusstatement: Integration of mechanisms, effects in animals and potential toimpact human health at current levels of exposure.” Reprod Toxicol. 2007 Aug–Sep; 24(2): 131–138.
5 California Environmental Protection Agency. 2011. Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or ReproductiveToxicityOEHHA. [Accessed Oct 1, 2011].
6 Divshaw LV, Powers CM, Ryde IT, Roberts SC, Seidler FJ, Slotkin TA, Stapleton HM. 2011. “Is the PentaBDE Replacement, tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP), a developmental neurotoxicant? Studies in PC12 cells.” Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.
7 Hauser and Calafat. 2005. “Phthalates and Human Health.” Occup Environ Med 2005;62:806-818

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