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Cribs, changing tables, and dressers can emit formaldehyde at levels linked with increased risk of childhood allergies and asthma, according to a new report released today by Maryland PIRG Foundation. In Toxic Baby Furniture: The Latest Case for Making Products Safe from the Start, Maryland PIRG Foundation revealed test result of an independent laboratory that show formaldehyde emissions from common baby nursery furnishings can significantly contribute to indoor air pollution. The report also made recommendations to protect children from toxic chemicals.
“The more we look, the more we find chemicals in our children’s products at levels known to contribute to significant health problems ranging from asthma to cancer. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is just the latest example,” said Johanna Neumann, state director of Maryland PIRG. “Maryland’s leaders need to provide real protections to children by requiring manufacturers to replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives.”
The report reveals the results of independent laboratory tests of 21 products intended for use in a baby nursery. Six of the cribs, changing tables, and dressers produced levels of formaldehyde emissions associated with an increased risk of developing allergies and asthma. Of the products tested, the Child Craft Oak Crib emitted the highest levels of formaldehyde. The crib includes a drawer made with composite wood, which is often manufactured using formaldehyde-based glue.
A new single-family home furnished with a Child Craft Oak Crib and a Storkcraft Kayla II Changing Table—and no other furniture—would have indoor formaldehyde levels of about 30 parts per billion (ppb) on average throughout the entire house. A unit in a new apartment building would have indoor formaldehyde levels as high as 52 ppb. Studies have shown that chronic exposure to formaldehyde at levels greater than 16 ppb in indoor air is linked with an increased likelihood of respiratory problems (such as coughing) and allergies in children. Indoor formaldehyde levels greater than 50 ppb have been associated with an increased risk of diagnosed asthma. Formaldehyde levels could be higher in the actual baby nursery. For example, in a lightly-ventilated nursery furnished with a Child Craft Oak Crib, formaldehyde levels could be as high as 75 ppb.
Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical widely used in the manufacturing of building materials and a variety of household products. Manufacturers use formaldehyde in glues and adhesives, as a preservative in paints, and as a means to give fabrics a permanent-press quality. When used in the home, formaldehyde-containing products can release the chemical into indoor air. In particular, products made from composite wood containing urea-formaldehyde glue tend to create indoor air pollution.
Children chronically exposed to elevated levels of airborne formaldehyde face an increased risk of developing allergies and asthma. The state of California and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classify formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
“Unfortunately, formaldehyde represents just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to children being exposed to toxic chemicals,” said Katie Huffling, CNM, Assistant Director of Midwifery Services at Prince George's Hospital Center.
Maryland PIRG Foundation recommends the following policies to protect children from exposure to toxic chemicals:
- Require chemical manufacturers to prove their chemicals are safe before allowing them to be used in consumer products,
- Empower state regulators to restrict or ban the manufacture and use of chemicals that pose potential dangers to human health or the environment, and
- Ensure the public has access to information about chemicals used in consumer products and the potential health impacts they pose.
“Parents cannot be expected to deal with these issues on their own,” said Joan Plisko, a Catonsville resident and mother of two. “It’s time to strengthen the product safety net in our state to protect our children from exposure to toxic chemicals.”
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