A new report shows that Babies”R”Us is lagging behind boutique competitor buybuy BABY when it comes to keeping toxic chemicals off the shelves.
Wait –Toxic chemicals on the shelves of baby retailers? Toxic chemicals in strollers, rattles, onesies, toys, high chairs, and stuffed animals? Really?
You bet. And not just baby retailers, either. All retailers.
Glaring inadequacies in federal law mean that synthetic chemicals can be formulated into everyday consumer products without being tested for health effects. With tens of thousand of untested chemicals in commerce, that makes for a huge array of potential exposures with unknown health effects.
And babies are among the most vulnerable to these potential health effects. Some of the chemicals of concern include:
- Formaldehyde, the preservative familiar from high school dissection lab, a human carcinogen found in particle board, wood products, and wrinkle free fabrics;
- Flame retardants in foam products, nominally intended to curb the spread of house fires; their efficacy is uncertain. Meanwhile, these chemicals may increase the risk of cancer and reproductive damage. They can be found in nursing pillows, changing pads, crib inserts, high chairs, children’s reading chairs, and other foam-containing products.
- Triclosan, an antimicrobial and anti-fungal agent that can disrupt the hormone system, commonly added to plastic toys for its antimicrobial properties; it can also be found in some toothpaste, laundry products, and clothing.
Americans spend $23 billion each year on baby products. Major baby retailers have the power to guide the baby industry toward safer products.
After all, baby products should be the last place we allow toxic chemicals. They should be our bright line in the sand. They should be safe.
Some moms are painfully, acutely, OCD-triggeringly aware of the ubiquity of toxic chemicals in consumer products. (Heck, this mom has been called “hysterical” and a “weirdo” for her concern over these issues. Sigh.) It’s one thing to know that chemicals aren’t tested before they hit the consumer market in everyday products; in theory, adults can do their own research and make their own choices. But it’s quite another to think about the hundreds of untested synthetic chemicals found in the body of a brand spanking newborn baby. That’s the kind of thing that makes moms mad.
Shouldn’t someone be doing something about this?
Because of lax federal laws, toxic chemicals are used widely in consumer products and end up in our schools, homes, couches, mattresses, food, and, eventually, in our bodies. We’ve known that for a long time. We’re not happy about it. We’ve watched over the years as Congress has failed to make good on passing a health protective chemicals law. It might be easy to blame lack of progress on a famously paralyzed Congress. But that’s not our style. We don’t dwell. Instead, we find a way to make change happen through another avenue.
Because our laws aren’t working, we have asked major retailers to “Mind the Store.” We have also joined the Getting Ready for Baby campaign, to formally call on top baby retailers to adopt policies that require product makers to know and disclose the chemicals and materials they use, and to phase out the use of any chemical found on the “Hazardous 100+” list.
The new report compares the corporate approach to chemicals of buybuy BABY, owned by Bed Bath &Beyond, with Babies”R”Us, a subsidiary of Toys”R”Us. What it finds is that Babies”R”Us, with 250 stores across the country, falls far short of what it could – and should – be doing.
According to the report,
“buybuy BABY has taken a series of steps to address toxic chemicals, and earlier this year, it issued a Restricted Substances List of chemicals it asked all vendors to eliminate in all products they sell…
“Babies”R”Us, by contrast, has chemical-specific restrictions, including limits on bisphenol A (BPA), some phthalates, lead, and cadmium. Its parent company, Toys”R”Us, has taken no new actions on chemicals since 2011.”
Everyone, regardless of their budget, and regardless of their knowledge about toxic chemicals, should be able to shop at the nation’s leading baby retailer confident that the products for sale will not pose threats to their child’s health.
It’s time Babies”R”Us takes the health of its target demographic seriously.