Children’s Product Safety - Thoughts from Naturepedic
Naturepedic, a company that manufactures organic crib mattresses and other organic bedding here in the USA, is one of our favorite vendors. We believe that they are always considering the children first when choosing how to create a product, and many of our customers have used their mattresses and been very happy with them. We asked Naturepedic to explain why they do what they do, and they were kind enough here to give us their their thoughs on product safety.
When considering which products to buy for your new baby's nursery, we'd all like to think that products on the market must be safe. After all, wouldn't the government prohibit the sale of any product that isn't safe? Well, we are headed in the right direction. There are federal and state regulations that dictate certain precautions.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) of the federal government passed the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in 2008 and it applies to all products for use by children up to the age of 12. There is legislation for 3 age groups: up to 3 years; up to 5 years; and up to 12 years of age. This act states that
every product sold for children up to 12 years of age must adhere to several requirements listed below.
• Limitation of lead in children's products for children up to 5 years of age unless the lead is unaccessable to the child
• Removal of certain phthalates – three types for children's products (up to 3 years of age), and an additional three phthalates only in teething, sucking and feeding products for children.
• Tracking labels for products used by children 12 and under
• Registration cards for “durable” products designed to be used by children 12 and under.
• Third party testing by a select number of labs
• Certificate of General Conformance for all sales to retailers by the manufacturer stating that all laws have been complied with.
Most of us are familiar with product recalls. Products that have gone through all these steps and then sold to the public are still held to a safety standard and may be recalled if it is found the product is causing harm to children. All this seems like it would be enough. But it's not. It's great that the lead is being removed from products which are counteractive to a child's intellectual capacity. But what about all the other chemicals? There are over 80,000 chemicals available for use by manufacturers. The public only knows about a tiny fraction of these chemicals. The seven restricted chemicals listed above are the only chemicals that the public has been told are harmful and have regulations. California's Proposition 65 includes 855 other questionable chemicals. There are no actual federal regulations for testing products that contain any of these 800+ chemicals, or virtually all the other 80,000 chemicals on the market.
Further, while a restricted chemical may no longer be in a product, all it takes is the change in placement of a molecule to make it a completely different chemical – possibly making it safe and possibly not. So, for example, certain phthalates have been restricted but many others have been developed since then. If the type of plastic used in a product needs to be softened (typically PVC), then phthalates or other plasticizers are used to make it pliable. The government could regulate more of them, but then even more would be developed. The possibilities are endless.
Where does it end? Where is the accountability? Have you ever tried asking a manufacturer exactly what was in the flame retardant of a crib mattress or what they are using to make it waterproof? The information is often considered proprietary and is not available. Consumers must do their best to educate themselves and demand
information and, in the end, buy the products they feel are safest. Of course, this is exactly why it is best to do business with companies that fully disclose their ingredients, and to do business with retailers that track down this information.