The harmful chemical lurking in your children’s toys


Heather Stapleton vividly recalled the moment she realized that the dangerous chemicals she studied in her lab had entered her home.

Dr. Stapleton, a chemist at Duke University, had just put her 1-year-old son to bed and was chatting with a colleague in her living room about their latest research. The scientists were talking about the toxic chemicals they’d found in baby gear, added to prevent them from catching on fire. Suddenly, they noticed a tag on her son’s polyester tunnel. “We’re like, wait,” Dr. Stapleton said. “Is that a flammability standard on the tunnel?”

Sure enough, the tunnel’s tag said that it met a flammability standard for camping tents, meaning that the material contained chemical flame retardants that would prevent it from catching — and staying — on fire.

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The New York Times, 23 November 2020