FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 16, 2013

CONTACT: Jeff Gearhart, 734-369-9276

Toxic chemicals found in some of this year's hottest electronic kids tablets

Kids tablets test worse then mobile phones

Ann Arbor: A new study released by Michigan-based HealthyStuff.org today found lead, PVC and hazardous flame retardants contained in the interior components of some of the most popular electronic tablets for children. The study comes out just as many families are considering holiday gifts of electronic devices for their children. One hundred and three samples were analyzed in four tablets including the LeapFrog LeadPad 2 Explorer, Fuhu Nabi Jr., Kurio touch 4S, and the VTech InnoTab 3. Full test results are available at HealthyStuff.org.

Every tablet sampled in this study contained at least one of following hazardous chemicals: lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants - BFRs), and chlorine (PVC). These hazardous substances can pollute throughout a product’s life cycle, including when the minerals are extracted; when they are processed; during tablet manufacturing; and at the end of the tablets useful life. Emissions during disposal and recycling of tablets as electronic waste, or “e-waste,” are particularly problematic.

These products are very similar to smart phones. For comparison, Apple and other electronic industry groups consider a material PVC-free and BFR-free if it contains less than 900 ppm for bromine and 900 ppm for chlorine (Apple 2011). All tablets tested for this study contained multiple component samples that contained PVC and BFRs. When the tablets were compared to a HealthyStuff.org 2012 study that examined the toxic chemicals in 38 mobile phones, the tablets tested 50% worse (more hazardous) then recent model mobile phones.

“Harmful chemicals do not belong in consumer products, but it’s especially egregious when they appear in products designed for children,” said Rebecca Meuninck, environmental health campaign director for the Ecology Center and Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health. “Families would like to avoid these products and choose safer alternatives but right now we don’t have access to enough information on the chemicals found in the products we buy for our kids."

The circuit boards of all four tablets had bromine levels above 10,000 parts per million, suggesting the use of brominated flame retardants, typically tetrabromobisphenol-A. All of the tablets contained multiple components with chlorine over 900 ppm, while the Vtech InnoTab 3 ranked as the overall most toxic tablet due to the detection of of multiple chemicals of concern.

Many electronic manufacturers are cleaning up their act in part by: 1) Using less hazardous resins, including thermoplastic copolymers and polyamide to replace PVC in cabling and other applications; 2) Avoiding the need for cabling through simplified design; 3) Using mercury-free LCD displays and arsenic-free glass; 4) Using bromine- and chlorine-free printed circuit board laminates; and 5) Moving to less toxic, reactive phosphorous-based flame retardant chemistries.

This study joins a series of reports released over the last two months showing harmful chemicals in a wide range of products including children’s furniture, holiday beaded garlands, jewelry, exercise equipment, building and outdoor supplies. The tablets in this study were completely disassembled and interior and exterior components were tested using X-ray Fluorescence (XRF).

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