Environmental group finds toxic chemicals in daycare nap mats

When the Washington Toxic Coalition gathered samples for the resting mat project Science Director Erika Schreder says she didn't know what to expect. The Seattle group purchased 14 mats from different retailers -- made by different manufacturers -- and sent samples of the foam cushions to a commercial laboratory.

"We were surprised that such a high percentage of these products contained toxic flame retardants," said Schreder

According to the test results, which were released Tuesday, all but two of the 14 mats contain flame retardant chemicals. Among the WTC findings:

12 of 14 nap mats, including mats purchased from major retailers and online contained flame retardant chemicals.

Five of 14 nap mats contained chlorinated Tris (TDCPP), which is known to cause cancer and was removed from children's pajamas in the 1970s because of health concerns.

Seven of 14 nap mats contained chemicals found in the flame retardant Firemaster 550. Recent research has linked the product to obesity, early puberty, and anxiety.

Schreder says similar tests conducted by California-based Center for Environmental Health (CEH)
found harmful flame retardant chemicals in 22 of 24 nap mats from half a dozen states.

Schreder says the results are a concern, because nap mats are a staple in day care centers across the country.

"If you push down on this product, air is going to come out, it's not hermetically sealed. And so when that air comes out, with it come particles of flame retardant," Schreder explained.

"And that flame retardant builds up in our air. It settles in the house dust and that's really an important route of exposure because kids are playing on the floor, they're putting their hands in their mouths and toys in their mouths. There's no reason that our kids should be on nap mats that contain a cancer causing chemical."

The groups urge parents and day care operators to consider mats that do not contain polyurethane foam, and look for mats the use padding made of polyester fiberfill, cotton or wool. The WTC is pushing for new state legislation through, HB1294 and SB5181, aimed at keeping Tris and other toxic retardants out of upholstered furniture and all products made for kids.

People who oppose the bills maintain there's no proof Tris is toxic, as claimed. They argue that giving the state the power to legislate replacement fire retardants in products would simply trigger a pattern of replacing one chemical after another- every time there's a new concern.