The State of Washington Department of Ecology went out to 14 major retail stores in 2014 and tested 297 articles of kids’ clothing on its shelves for chemicals of high concern to children, including toxic metals, phthalates, and various solvents (ethylene glycol, MEK, styrene, D4, and 4-nonylphenol). The results revealed that chemicals of high concern are frequently used in kids’ products and often at troublesome concentrations.
Image Source: WA Department of Ecology
Toxic Metals: The agency found that 96% of the samples contained toxic metals above reporting limits. Many of these were found in the prints on shirts and pajamas, as well as the fabrics and metals attached to clothes and shoes
Antimony, a toxic metal similar in properties to lead, was found in 72% of the samples. It was primarily found in polyester fabric and platisol prints on clothing items such as shirts. Ecology noted that “antimony trioxide as a catalyst in the process of making polyester.”
Lead, the second-most frequently found metal (48% of the samples), was found in buttons, zipper pulls, and snaps, as well as a piece of kids’ jewelry.
Cobalt was found in 38% of the samples. It was found in fabric and components (zipper pulls, snaps).
Phthalates: The agency tested fifty product component samples for various phthalates, including BBP, DEHP, DBP, DEP, DMP, DnHP, DIDP, DINP, and DnOP. Phthalates were found above the reporting limit in 38% of the samples. The highest-containing samples included a wallet, slippers, bracelet and purse. DEHP was used in highest concentrations in the tested samples (with 28% above reporting limits) and apparently as a plasticizer.
Toxic Solvents: Toxic solvents (ethylene glycol, MEK, and/or D4) were detected in 24% of samples, primarily in shirts (33%) and pajamas (33%). Ethylene glycol was found in concentrations above the reporting limit in 14% of the samples. D4 was found in concentrations above the reporting limit in 12% of the samples.
Plastisol Prints. A number of the chemicals of concern were found in the platisol prints on shirts, pajamas, and other clothing items. Ecology describes platisol prints as s a textile ink comprised of a “suspension of PVC particles in a liquid plasticizer.” Both PVC and plasticisers are substances with various toxicity issues of their own not directly covered in the report.
Source: “Chemicals of High Concern to Children in Children’s Clothing, Footwear, and Accessories, “ Callie Mathieu and Sara Sekerak, Environmental Assessment Program, Washington Department of Ecology (November 2015) , available at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/documents/1503039.pdf