Study finds possible toxic trouble for kids

March 14, 2008 8:53:03 PM PDT
A new study by some Philadelphia researchers shows that children's furniture and clothing may contain some potentially toxic chemicals. Scientists at Philadelphia University are working to keep families safe with its new Institute for Textile and Apparel Product Safety, called ITAPS for short.

"It was started last summer after we started to see a lot of the information coming in about the problem associated with safety in toys," said David Brookstein. "We decided it would be good to look at what was going on in textiles and apparel for toxic materials."

ITAPS' preliminary findings indicate hazardous chemicals are present in children's clothing and car seats.

"The most common item is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has been used for years as a permanent press agent in clothing. It's important to remove that formaldehyde before it comes to the marketplace," explained Brookstein.

Formaldehyde can irritate the skin and cause rashes.

ITAP scientists also found elevated levels of some potentially toxic flame retardants.

"They can cause reproductive problems, other endocrine problems. They can cause cancer," he said.

Europe and Japan have strict regulations regarding chemicals in textiles, but the U.S. does not have any federal regulation addressing the issue. That could change with an amendment to a bill being proposed in Congress.

"That the Consumer Product Safety Commission study and test formaldehyde in textiles so that we know what we're dealing with within a two-year time period," said Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Meantime, about 72 American companies have chosen to voluntarily control toxic chemicals in some of their merchandise. They include Victoria's Secret, Pottery Barn for Kids, Polartec, and Hanna Andersson. An independent textile-testing institute in Europe called Oeko-Tex has voluntarily certified them.

ITAPS hopes eventually it will become one of the first American affiliates of Oeko-Tex.


Amendment to Regulate Toxic Formaldehyde in Textiles

Institute for Textile and Apparel Product Safety