Oregon recently passed its Toxic-Free Kids Act, modeled after Washington’s Children’s Safe Product Act. The Washington Act requires manufacturers to self-report on their use of over 60 chemicals of high concern to children. Oregon is planning to require self-reporting on what will likely be this same group of chemicals—this means the Washington experience is highly relevant to Oregon, and for everyone else interested in knowing what chemicals of high concern are in a kid’s products. I downloaded the most recent version of the Washington Children’s Products Database (updated through September 2015). It is a goldmine of information. I enclose some highlights and analytics of the dataset, which I have generated using Tableau, a business intelligence software tool. I will dive deeper into the dataset in Part 2 of this article.
Top Chemicals Used in a Kid’s Products: The top five chemicals of high concern to children self-reported in the database include cobalt and it’s compounds; ethylene glycol, antimony & its compounds, methyl ethyl ketone, and styrene. Other top offenders include octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, molybdenum, phthalates, formaldehyde and toluene.
Many Top Chemicals Used Have No Function: Manufacturers are required to report on the function of the chemicals as used in the product. Yet, many manufacturers reported that the relevant chemicals had no function—in other words, that they had no business being in the product whatsoever. The grey portions of the bars below represent the proportion of reporting entries without a chemical function.
Certain Chemicals Stand Out With Highest Volumes of Use: The Washington self-reporting rule requires manufacturers to indicate how much of each chemical is used in a product (measured in parts per million or PPM). Taking into account the most frequently reported chemicals, in addition to those reported in highest concentrations, we start to get a sense of the high volume chemicals in a kid’s products. It turns out the following chemicals lead the way. In no particular order, the high volume chemicals are antimony & its compounds, cobalt & its compounds, molybdenum & its compounds, parabens, phthalates, styrene, and toluene. It is important to note that Washington requires that manufacturers report on chemicals even if they are under 100 PPM; yet many of these top chemicals were frequently reported at over 500; 1000; 5,000; and 10,000 PPM.
Chemicals in Products Designed to Be Put in a Baby’s Mouth: A few chemicals of high concern to children were found in concentrations of up to 500 ppm in pacifiers and teething rings. These are products that are designed to be put in a baby’s mouth. Talk about exposure potential. This was a very small proportion of the thousands of data points reported in the database, but enough to take notice. The chemicals found in pacifiers and teething rinigs include ethylene glycol, methyl ethyl ketone, octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, and styrene (all at levels above 100 ppm) and cobalt & its compounds (reported at levels less than 100 ppm).
Some Developmental Toxicants Found in Products Designed to Be Put in a Baby’s Mouth: The chemicals listed in pacifiers and teething rings include developmental toxicants, as listed in California’s Safer Consumer Products Candidate Chemical Database. I’ve extracted the hazard traits for these chemicals from California’s database and reproduced them below: