Killer Cribs

Mother and childFriends of the Earth has found that commonly used baby and children’s products, and upholstered household furniture contain dangerous levels of toxic chemicals called halogenated fire retardants.

56% of all infant carriers, 44% of all car seats, 40% of all strollers and 19% of all portable cribs were found to have high levels of halogenated fire retardants.

One important player in reforming industrial use of halogenated fire retardants is the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), which has close ties to the chemical industry.

Letter to NASFM, expressing our concern about conflicts of interest

Letter to Governors urging restoration of NASFM’s independence and credibility

In hundreds of studies, halogenated fire retardants have been linked to serious health disorders such as cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption, neurological and reproductive dysfunction and learning disabilities such as ADHD, mental retardation, and hyperactivity. Human testing suggests that most Americans now have halogenated fire retardants in their bodies, with babies and children showing the highest levels.

Halogenated fire retardants are lipophilic, meaning that once they enter a human or animal body, they tend to stay there and accumulate, impacting the body's normal functioning and/or causing disease. As exposure continues, the build-up in the body increases.

Children: Babies are now born with hundreds of chemicals already stored in their bodies. Topping the list are halogenated fire retardants, particularly a sub-class called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

House Cats: U.S. EPA researchers have hypothesized an association between PBDEs and the significant increase of hyperthyroidism rates in cats. Feline hyperthyroidism was rare before the 1970s, but is now a leading cause of death in domestic cats.

Firefighters: Halogenated fire retardants may be linked to high rates of certain kinds of cancer in firefighters. Firefighters come into contact with these compounds through inhalation and also skin contact with soot during the clean-up phase at burn sites.

Environment: Halogenated fire retardants are increasingly found in river and bay sediments throughout the world, including extremely remote areas such as the Arctic Circle.

Our Data

In the 2007-2008 legislative cycle, 13 different bills were introduced in 11 states to ban the manufacture or use of products containing these toxic fire retardant chemicals. Products covered by these bills included, but were not limited to, upholstered furniture, televisions, computers, mattresses and bedding products. The states are the following: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York and Vermont.  Maine and Washington are the two states that have successfully enacted a ban against decaBDE, which is one of the many halogenated fire retardants. California's AB706 would also phase out the use of decaBDE.

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More Information

Infant sleepingFull Killer Cribs Report (pdf) Download the full report

Press Release

CBS News Exclusive: Is Fire Retardant a Harmful Toxin? Watch Part One and Part Two

Press Conference in San Francisco

ABC Local News: Watch "Study: Chemicals Used in Popular Baby Products"

Safe Baby Products Friends of the Earth's list of companies that claim to sell products free of halogenated fire retardants

Safe Car Seats

Safe Kids Campaign

Testing Baby Products
"We sampled a wide variety of children's products, and what we found was alarming," said Friends of the Earth's Sara Schedler, the report's lead author. "Toxic chemicals are being put into products that children and babies interact with on a regular basis, endangering their health. The government must act now to limit these chemicals’ use, and companies should stop putting these chemicals in their products."