According to a new study published today in Environmental Science and Technology, 80 percent of the cushions used in baby products such as car seats, nursing pillows, changing pads and portable cribs contain chemical flame retardants that may be linked to cancer.

The study, conducted by research chemists from California and North Carolina, suggests that babies are being exposed to at least eight different flame-retarding chemicals in a wide variety of baby products sold around the country. More than one-third of the products tested contained a flame retardant that was removed from children's pajamas almost 40 years ago because of its potential carcinogenic properties. The chemical, chlorinated Tris, was not banned, but according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it “may pose a significant health risk to consumers.”

The new study did not evaluate whether or not children absorbed the chemical, but the research does suggest that infants who use products containing chlorinated Tris have higher exposure to the chemical than the government recommends. The study’s lead author, Heather Stapleton, who is a Duke University assistant professor of environmental chemistry, said that chlorinated Tris, like many of the other flame retardants found in the study, have been used only recently in the production of baby products, replacing another chemical that was banned after 2004 because it was building up rapidly in human bodies.

What's more, 14 of the products contained the flame retardant TCEP, a chemical listed by the state of California as a cancer-causing agent. Four of the products contained Penta-BDE, a flame retardant that builds up in human tissue and that manufacturers voluntarily phased out in 2004. Penta-BDE is banned in many countries and a few U.S. states, but not nationwide.  

The research team sampled 101 pieces of polyurethane foam removed from cushions in car seats, nursing pillows, car seats, changing table pads, sleep positioners, portable crib mattresses, baby carriers, rocking chairs, high chairs and a few other products.

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