Feature

Health scare of the week: Toxic baby products

Baby products made from polyurethane foam may contain chemicals that cause cancer and brain damage.

Eight out of 10 common baby products contain flame-retardant chemicals that could cause cancer and brain damage, Duke University researchers say. In a new study, they analyzed 101 items made with polyurethane foam, such as that used to pad car seats, high chairs, and strollers. More than a third of the items contained chlorinated Tris, a suspected carcinogen that manufacturers stopped using in children’s pajamas in the 1970s but that has not been banned outright. Some of the items also contained penta, a chemical banned in 2004 after toddlers with high levels of it were found to have lower IQs and reduced motor skills. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, tells CBSNews.com the study is “a wake-up call,” warning that breathing or absorbing the chemicals could put infants at serious risk of cancer and could permanently harm their developing brains. Manufacturers say the flame-retardants are necessary to protect children from fire, but researcher Arlene Blum says they pose more dangers than benefits. “They are toxic” and “in our homes at high levels,” she says. She urges parents to replace products containing foam, when possible, with ones that use polyester or cotton filling.

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