a baby crawls on a wood floor

Polyurethane foam used in car seats, high chairs, strollers, changing table pads, sleep positioners, mattresses, and nursing pillows may contain high levels of flame-retardant chemicals that could cause cancer and brain damage, according to researchers at Duke University.  A team of researchers tested baby products for the presence of the retardants, led by Heather M. Stapleton of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

In 2009 Stapleton experienced her first pregnancy and soon after this study was born.  Baby products were collected from 13 states, and the team found 80 out of 101 products tested contained retardants.  The team found babies’ level of daily exposure to toxic chemicals may exceed the acceptable limit determined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Read more about the study in Chemical and Engineering News.  Should you panic and throw out all of your baby foam products?  Not no fast…think about these options first.


  1. Opt for natural cotton padding from a “green” store for future purchases. There are many green stores online to choose from today.
  2. Limit the amount of time baby is in an object with foam padding. Some parents keep baby in the car seat just because it is a convenient way to carry him around.
  3. Clean your house frequently with a wet mop and vacuum.  The chemicals escape quickly from the foam and are found in the house dust and then picked up by humans.

This study is the first of its kind to examine baby products and their toxic chemical content.  Numerous news outlets presented this story this week, bringing the statistics directly to public attention.  Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, tells that the study is “a wake-up call” and warned that infants breathing or absorbing the chemicals could be at risk.  We must hope that this will increase awareness and encourage people to purchase more green products.


  1. Hi Tasha! Thanks for your comment. I think this study is important because scientific measurements are not manipulated to persuade us to buy something. We can often be confused by messages we see in advertising about what is “harmful” or “green.” The most important part of this post is the three simple steps everyone can take for baby’s health, especially the frequent cleaning of the house.

  2. Wow, this is terrifying! Thanks for the “Wake-up Call”. I guess I just didn’t realize how much crap there is out there!

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