I’m not a particularly green mom. Though, as a consumer reporter I’ve covered enough studies over the years to know I should try to reduce my child’s exposure to concerning chemicals (especially those “known to cause cancer”). It certainly never occurred to me that there might be a flame retardant in my child.
As a result of various news reports and on-camera demos, I’d pretty much rid our home of products with chemical flame retardants—electronics excluded—by the time my daughter was born.
I even bought the pricey Orbit Baby car seat-stroller system that I had reported on because the company claimed its materials were tested to ensure “below detection limits” of “dangerous flame retardant chemicals” including “TDCPP.”
So imagine my surprise when a biomonitoring study found high levels of that chemical in my 2-year old! And by high, I mean eight times the level in average children from previous studies!
Coincidentally, the next day we got back test results from the foam in my daughter’s car seat as part of a completely unrelated consumer investigation. Three labs ultimately confirmed it also contained TDCPP, the same flame retardant in my child.
Sure, flame retardants are in a lot of things, from electronics to furniture and preschool classrooms. Except my daughter doesn’t attend preschool yet, so she spends most of her day in our largely flame-retardant free home (yes, we tested the other padded surfaces she may be exposed to after we got her results back).
The levels of TDCPP in my body were 3.8 PPB (parts per billion). The average child in previous studies had between 5-7 PPB in their bodies. My daughter’s levels were 60.8 BBP!
Twenty-four hours after the car seat was removed (later replaced), her levels were just above the average in children tested for previous studies, 8.68 PPB. Ten days later, they were below average at 4.25 PPB.
The half-life of TDCPP is believed to be 8 hours (i.e. your levels drop by 50 percent every eight hours), so her levels decreased at what would be the expected rate 24 hours after her last exposure. (60/2 = 30 ppb after 8 hrs… 30/2 = 15 ppb after 16 hrs… 15/2 = 7.5 ppb after 24 hrs.)
A follow-up sample was taken 10 days later in an attempt to confirm that there were no other significant contributors in our home. The fact that she still tested positive for 4.25 PBB speaks to the fact that these chemicals are pervasive in consumer products and the environment. There is currently no realistic way to eliminate exposure short of updating regulations. However, parents can certainly try to reduce kids’ exposures.
Toxicologist stress that the lower the exposure, the lower the risk.
I’ve known about her initial results since shortly after my first Orbit story ran in December, but I did not want to publicly report anything until we could do a series of follow-up tests to investigate whether her car seat was likely a primary source of exposure.
Orbit pointed out in its response “Since there are so many products and places where people, especially children, can be exposed to various chemicals, it is difficult to definitively link the presence of a particular substance to a specific source.” The car itself contains flame retardants and that could have also contributed to her exposure.
It is also important to note that Orbit is not alone. Keep in mind, all car seats have flame retardants. Some retardants are believed to be safer than others, though a recent technical report found concerning chemicals in 75 percent of those tested.
SEE UPDATE: Now Our Clek Car Seat Tested Positive For TDCPP
The important thing to remember is that knowledge is power.While you can not eliminate exposure to concerning chemicals, there are simple things you can do to reduce exposure.
We’ve put together this resource page for concerned parents to in an effort to provide options.
- Get Your Foam Tested at Duke
- Buy a Car Seat With “Safer” Chemicals
- Has Your Manufacturer Been Served With Violations?
- Reduce Exposure
- Contact Lawmakers With Oversight of NHTSA
For the full story, this KPIX news report provides additional details on the realities of this chemical.
Like most flame retardants, TDCPP does not stay in the product, and kids are more susceptible to the harmful effects of chemical flame retardants because their cells are still developing. Kids are also more likely to ingest the chemicals, which migrate into dust due to normal kid behaviors like hand-to-mouth contact. Read More at CBSSF.
But wait, there’s more.
The “Chemicals in my Kid” story was actually the second of our two-part investigation. While I was waiting for my daughter’s follow-up results, I started searching public records and discovered Orbit had twice been served with Prop 65 notices of violation for selling products with “chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm.”
The shocker: They never had to notify anyone whose kids are still using affected car seats!
We discovered an apparent legal loophole that’s leaving parents in the dark about concerning chemicals in their kids’ car seats and other children’s products, even after companies are served with violations. And again… Orbit is not alone.
We found several car seats and hundreds of children’s products that had been served with violations but never had to inform the parents who’d already purchased those products.
Check out Part 1 of our investigation below for a summary.
TDCPP is one of those cancer-causing chemicals, and we’ve discovered that Orbit was twice served with Prop 65 notices of violation, but never had to notify parents whose kids are still using those products with Tris. And Orbit is not alone.
For a summary of the ongoing investigation into chemicals in car seat along with additional resources for parents, links to relevant data & documents, responses from lawmakers and editorials by the reporter, see:
What began as a NewsMom editorial, expanded into a 6-month KPIX-CBS investigation exposing alleged false advertising, apparent legal loopholes and outdated federal regulations that systematically expose millions of children to concerning, even known-cancer-causing, chemicals in their car seats.