WNYT.com

Report: some daycare nap mats have harmful chemicals

Posted at: 02/19/2013 5:58 PM
Updated at: 02/20/2013 2:43 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann

SCHENECTADY - When pre-schoolers at the Kingsway Kids Center take a break from learning and playing, they take a daily nap on floor mats.

They're designed to be soft, sturdy and safe. That's why the daycare director said a new study questioning the chemicals in the flame retardant was cause for concern.

"That's confusing we've been told for years now that all our fabrics should be flame retardant. Our curtains are flame retardant, anything we use here," said Lisa Stoler, Kingsway Kids Center's Director.

The study commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health, looked at 24 nap mats across the country, including two in New York.

Advocates said a Duke University researcher found dangerous flame retardant chemicals in 22 of them. Chemicals, they said, are in polyurethane foam inside some mats, which have been linked to cancer, genetic damage, allergies and other health problems.

"When you lay down on the mat or a couch, there's this pig pen effect, where the chemicals come out. So as a child rolls and it starts compressing other parts and has the air come out of the mat, they're going to be breathing in directly," said Bobbi Chase Wilding, Deputy Director for Clean and Healthy New York, Inc.

New York State has passed laws limiting certain flame retardants. Last year, the Assembly approved a bill to phase out a number of the chemicals reportedly found in the mats.

The Capital District Child Care Coordinating Council said they are taking the new report carefully and skeptically.

"My first reaction is not to panic. These mats have been around for a very long time. But I also think we have to ask questions. Safety is our concern," said Sheri Dushane, with the Council.

NewsChannel 13 reached out to the chemical industry about the report.

The North America Flame Retardant Alliance did not comment about the safety of the chemicals in nap mats, issuing this statement:

“Flame retardants are a diverse group of chemistries developed to improve fire safety and are subject to review by the EPA and other governmental agencies around the world. Product manufacturers, the market place, and relevant codes and standard setting bodies determine whether flame retardants are needed to provide fire safety performance for a particular application. Product manufacturers use flame retardants to help save lives, as the chemistries prevent fires from starting or limit their spread to provide extra escape time when every second counts."

We also received this statement from the Firemen's Association of the State of New York President Jim Burns:

"As firefighters, every day we see firsthand the injuries and loss of life caused by fires involving modern furnishings, which burn much hotter and much more quickly than traditional furnishings, that in the past were made with natural materials.  We are continuing to work with the experts in this area at national standards and testing bodies as well as with the furniture and furnishings industries and advocates on this issue to develop and promulgate new standards that will increase fire safety for both the public and our fellow firefighters, while also addressing the ongoing health and safety concerns in these areas.”