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RELEASE: Retailers to child care programs must act to provide non-toxic products

May 8, 2017

RELEASE: Retailers to child care programs must act to provide non-toxic products, report finds

Advocates call on NYS to act for "Safer Stuff, Healthy Kids"

(Albany) Retailers selling directly to early care and education programs, including child care programs and Head Start, need to do more to screen out harmful chemicals, a new report finds. Advocates and legislators are calling for New York State leadership to require manufacturers to know and disclose chemicals of concern to children's health.

The report released today, “Selling Safer Products for Early Care and Education,” is the first assessment of these niche retailers who target directly to early care and education programs, including child care and preschools. It assessed policies on chemicals in products they sell, and how transparent retailers were, and found:

While nearly all (22 of 24) retailers use certifications to identify chemically-safer products, only one company applies a broad chemicals policy to all products it sells: New York-based Community Playthings.
Another leader, Kaplan Early Learning, offered the most types of certifications in products they sell.
On the other end of the spectrum, only for Creative Children were we unable to find any information about chemicals in products or relevant certifications.
All of the rest reference at least one environmental or health benefit in some product descriptions.

With only one company (also a manufacturer) taking the necessary steps to screen out harmful chemicals from products in babies’ and toddlers’ daily environments, advocates urge all early care and learning retailers to:

1. create and implement a policy for screening out chemicals that can harm children’s healthy development;
2. establish a timeline for implementation;
3. make the policy and the timeline public; and
4. establish and implement a clear and consistent method for consumers to identify less toxic products.

“The early years are a time of rapid growth and development so it is especially important to nurture and protect children during this phase of their life,” said Jessica Klos Shapiro, Director of Policy for the Early Care and Learning Council. “Busy working parents rely on their care arrangements to provide a safe and educational setting. The classrooms and toys that children are exposed to on a regular basis must be free of harmful chemicals and foster the best environment for children to grow and thrive.”

“Retailers who sell directly to those caring for and teaching our youngest children should follow the lead of major consumer retailers and use their position to ensure that not only are products they sell physically safe, they’re healthy for developing bodies. As coordinators of the national Getting Ready for Baby coalition, we call on these companies to act now. Child care providers, like parents, shouldn’t have to be toxicologists to ensure products are free from harmful chemicals,” said Bobbi Wilding, Deputy Director of Clean and Healthy New York.

In order to ensure healthy products, greater information is needed from product makers. Advocates and New York State legislators announced bills to be introduced this week that would require companies to report the presence of chemicals that can contribute to serious health problems, including cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, asthma, diabetes, and infertility.

“Whether in child care settings, preschool, or the home, babies and children should have healthy environments. It’s past the time when New York should leverage our economic impact and require companies to report harmful chemicals in children’s products. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the New York State Senate to make this a reality in 2017,” said Senator Tony Avella.

“This report highlights that more work is necessary to protect children from toxic chemicals and provide caregivers the certainty and peace of mind they deserve. Voluntary measures can only go so far. Legislation to disclose toxic chemicals in children’s products will even the playing field and provide parents with true freedom of choice,” said Senate Consumer Protection Committee Chair David Carlucci.

“Targeting children’s products to ensure protection of our most vulnerable residents is something we can all agree upon. Policy-driven market transparency is a growing trend that enables consumers to choose wisely when shopping. Working together, we can ensure disclosure of chemicals in children’s products this legislative session,” said Senator Phil Boyle.

"Parents shouldn't have to worry about whether the toys their children play with contain toxic chemicals," said Senator Todd Kaminsky, Ranking Member of the Environmental Conservation Committee. "Albany needs to take action to ensure that parents know if their kids may be exposed to any hazardous chemicals. We cannot be complacent when it comes to protecting the health of New Yorkers, and I will keep fighting to ensure that people know what is in their products.”

“Children are more sensitive to and are at an increased risk from chemical exposure. I plan to introduce legislation again in 2017 similar to that routinely passed by the NYS Assembly to protect children’s health from unnecessary toxic chemicals in children’s products. It’s time to put our children first and make sure manufacturers are disclosing harmful chemicals – so parents can avoid them and retailers can screen them out,” said Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright.

"It's a sad fact that the chemical industry and manufacturers routinely expose all Americans to harmful toxins in common consumer products, and the danger is especially acute for our children," said Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Chair of the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee. "The least we can do is to ensure that parents and caregivers have the knowledge they need to make healthy choices regarding the products they purchase for the children in their care. I strongly support this legislation."

“All children deserve safe and healthy care from the earliest age,” said Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives for WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “Whether it’s parents, child care providers, or educators shopping, they need information on chemicals in children’s products.”

“The American Academy of Pediatrics supports disclosure of chemicals of concern in children's products. Children deserve the best possible start, free from chemicals that contribute to diseases and disorders of environmental origin,” said Dr. Lucy Weinstein, representing the New York Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The report can be read and downloaded here.  


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