Conservation Minnesota

Hey Babies “R” Us – We’re Waiting

Getting Ready for Baby, a national campaign to promote baby products without toxic chemicals issued a new report last Friday, What We Expect When We’re Expecting.   The report examines corporate policies to  eliminate chemicals of concern in products sold by two big box baby retailers that many parents and parents-to-be rely on for their baby needs- buybuy Baby and Babies“R”Us.

How did they do?

buybuy Baby, with 92 stores in 32 states, does not have a big presence here in Minnesota. But we’re impressed with the steps they have taken to address chemicals in their product lines, including issuing a Restricted Substances list of 223 chemicals to be eliminated from their products. They offer an array or organic baby products from mattresses to food to cleaning products. They urge their vendors to use sustainable packaging and FSC certified or recycled paper. They are working to eliminate PVC in packaging and avoid selling PVC baby bibs. They have policies on eliminating lead, cadmium and phthalates that go beyond minimum federal requirements. They have policies limiting flame retardants in polyurethane foam and BPA in reusable food containers. They are also planning to provide customers with information on flame retardant content in mattresses.

Babies“R”Us is another story. With 250 stores across the country, Babies“R”Us has a much bigger presence in Minnesota. They have done little beyond legal requirements. They have set limits on lead and cadmium, banned BPA in beverage containers and limited phthalates and vinyl in bibs and other products made for parent company, Toys”R”Us.  They have taken no new actions on chemicals in products since 2011, according to their Toys”R”Us Safety Standards and Practices.  They do offer products labeled “organic,” but it’s hard to tell from their web site, whether products are certified organic.

Analysis of Washington State Reporting

Manufacturers are required to report to the state of Washington on 66 chemicals of concern in children’s products sold in the state.  http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/cspa/ Retailers are required to report on private label products they sell. What We Expect When We’re Expecting contrasts reporting results for these two baby retailers. Bed, Bath and Beyond, the parent company of buybuyBaby reported nine uses of chemicals in products they sell. In contrast, Babies”R”Us reported 128 uses of chemicals of high concern in children’s products. While starkly contrasting, these reporting differences may reflect differences in the total number of private label products each retailer offers. Reported chemicals include antimony, phthalates, the flame retardants TBBPA and chlorinated tris (TCEP), styrene and toluene, among others.

These chemicals of concern are linked to serious health risks to children. Antimony, a carcinogen was reportedly used 2,376 times according to Washington state data. Reporting data reflects a decrease in use of chlorinated tris (TCEP) in polyurethane foam. That’s good because TCEP is linked to cancer and toxicity to the brain and reproductive system. Styrene is linked to similar heath effects and 1,579 uses were reported in Washington state, along with 347 uses of the solvent toluene, a developmental toxin.

Take action!

As a consumer, you can make a real difference. Retailers like Babies”R”Us and buybuy Baby listen to their customers. Tell Babies”R”Us that we’re still waiting for them to do more. Urge them to develop a plan of action to assure that their products are free of harmful toxins that could harm children’s health.

About Kathleen Schuler

Kathleen Schuler
Kathleen Schuler manages the Healthy Kids and Families program. With degrees in sociology and public health, Kathleen is perfectly situated to serve as the Co-Director of the Healthy Legacy coalition, which is a statewide network of advocacy organizations working to eliminate toxic chemicals from common consumer products.
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