High levels of formaldehyde found in baby furniture

June 11, 2008|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun reporter

A number of cribs and changing tables commonly sold at retail outlets contain unhealthy levels of formaldehyde, a consumer advocacy group reported yesterday.

A lab tested the furniture in sealed chambers and found formaldehyde levels in four changing tables and two cribs in excess of air quality standards set by California this year, according to Johanna Neumann, director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group. Six of 21 cribs and other nursery products gave off formaldehyde at levels that increase the risk of asthma and respiratory problems, the group reported.

PIRG posted the report online yesterday after a news conference in Baltimore. The testing was conducted by Berkeley Analytical Associates, an environmental testing firm in Richmond, Calif.

"If anything, their calculations are on the conservative side," said Thad Godish, an environmental management professor at Ball State University who was not involved in the report.

Newborns and toddlers are more sensitive than adults to formaldehyde in cabinetry and other wood-finished furniture, he said, but cribs may be where babies are the most exposed.

Concerns about formaldehyde vapors were heightened in 2006 after tests conducted on hundreds of trailers supplied to shelter Hurricane Katrina survivors showed excessive levels of the gas.

An additive used in wood products, drapes and home furnishings, formaldehyde is considered a probable carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. Studies show that excessive exposure increases the risk of asthma and respiratory problems.

The report says the Child Craft Oak Crib, made by Indiana-based Child Craft Industries, had the highest formaldehyde of the 21 items tested, emitting 3,680 micrograms per hour. California's standards will require building products to emit no more than 259 micrograms per hour by January 2009, Neumann said.

Child Care President Bill Suvak said the firm's crib meets the latest safety standards established by industry experts and federal consumer protection mandates. He said he is confident the tests he is conducting will refute the advocacy group's findings.

The report is available at: http://www.marylandpirg.org/report.


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