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New Labels and Database to Improve Children’s Product Safety

New labeling requirements have been issued for children’s clothing. At the same time, recent news about dangerous chemicals in children’s clothing has raised curiosity and concern about the safety of the sourcing practices within the garment industry.

The new labeling requirements has manufacturers include a tracking label or other marker on any product destined for children twelve and younger. The label must include the source of the product, the date of manufacture, and the batch or run number. It applies to all children’s products, including shoes and clothing. There is an exemption for small products such as toys that are manufactured and shipped without individual packaging, but clothing will need to be tracked.

This should allow safety agencies to track down the origins of dangerous products.

Reports filed by companies as diverse as H&M, Wal-Mart, Gymboree Corp, Nike Inc, and Gap, under a new Washington state law have shown chemicals of “high concern” in products made or marketed for children, according to a recent analysis by Environmental Health News. The new tracking requirements should enable those retailers to move away from suppliers that use products such as cobalt, methyl ethyl ketone, and other chemicals in clothing and footwear.

The presence of the chemicals in the new database – created under Washington State’s Children’s Safe Product Act – does not necessarily mean that they pose a risk to human health or that they exceed safe levels. But it does require the industry to track the use and presence of such products.

The act was created because children are both especially vulnerable to the effects of dangerous chemicals and particularly prone to exposure, due to their tendency to chew items and rub them on their skin.

Children’s product safety is a worldwide problem. Another report issued in Singapore at the end of April found that 28 out of 110 products tested did not meet minimum safety standards. A Chinese consumer safety group recently issued its first warning around the same general group of products, advising them to be pulled from shelves.

Product concerns with children’s clothing range from the presence of hazardous chemicals to dangerous cords and drawstrings.

The Washington State database requires companies to disclose the presence of any of 66 “Chemicals of A High Concern to Children,” in any children’s products on sale in the state. Because products are generally distributed nationally, the database will enable parents and advocates in all states to inform themselves about the presence of hazardous chemicals in products used or worn by their children.

With the new labeling requirement, advocates can track down offending suppliers and advocate for the use of safe alternatives, and firms will have a stronger incentive to make the transition away from those suppliers.


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