US trade group the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association criticised an NGO report — which grades retailers’ on their efforts to tackle chemicals of concern — for implying children’s products could be toxic.
Kelly Mariotti, executive director of the JPMA, told Chemical Watch that children’s products “cannot present either acute or chronic hazards to children” because they are “heavily regulated” under the Federal Hazardous Substance Act and Consumer Product Safety Act, and most products were tested by government-accredited laboratories before sale.
She said: “We are extremely confident these products are safe and would be verified as safe by any board-certified toxicologist. The claims here are false and misleading, which is why we urge all responsible parties to either verify them or retract them from publication.”
The ‘report card’ by the Mind the Store coalition of NGOs ranked 30 retailers across 11 sectors on their chemicals policies.
The eight baby and children’s products retailers assessed received an average D+ grade, matching the average retailer performance on safer chemicals.
Co-author of the report and executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, Mike Belliveau, told Chemical Watch: “We did find that the baby product sector is a laggard in ensuring the chemical safety of the products they sell. That should be a wake-up call to action for most consumers and the retailers.”
In a Mind the Store press release, Bobbi Wilding, coordinator of the Getting Ready for Baby campaign, called on Toys R Us subsidiary Babies R Us, and Buybuy Baby to make “vast improvements” in 2018.
However, Frederick Locker, attorney at Locker Greenberg & Brainin LLP, the independent general counsel for JPMA, told Chemical Watch: “The premise of the reports and supporting campaigns is a claim the mere presence of a substance or material renders products toxic; rather than a toxicological assessment of hazardous exposure. There is a significant distinction.”
‘Drop in the Bucket’
In response to the JPMA’s comments, Mr Belliveau said: “This report is not an assessment of the safety of an individual product, it is a comparison of leaders and laggards in the retail sector regarding policies and practices that are designed to ensure that chemical safety in the products they buy and sell.”
He added: “There are thousands of dangerous chemicals and untested chemicals in commerce. The US government has only outright banned two classes of chemicals in toys in recent times, which is lead compounds and phthalates. That’s a drop in the bucket.”
Ms Wilding said in response to the JPMA: “Baby products retailers were evaluated with the same criteria looking at their corporate practices. You don’t need to look any further than the Washington State database on chemicals of concerns in children’s products to realise that there are chemicals of concern being reported by manufacturers in products made for children.”
She added: “We stand by our concern in making sure that products made for children are made without chemicals of concern, because we are concerned about eliminating the hazards.”
Toys R Us
Toys R Us and its subsidiary Babies R Us, received an F grade, scoring five out of a possible 135 points and ranking 22nd out of 30 retailers.
The report says the store is “failing to publicly address toxic chemicals in the products they sell”. Toys R Us missed out on points because it does not publish a corporate responsibility report or other public facing documents that summarise their efforts to address chemicals of concern.
A spokesperson for Toys R Us said that, because the report based its grades on publicly available information, it did not reflect its actual policies or programmes. Buybuy Baby did not respond to Chemical Watch’s request for comment by the time of publishing.