Marissa Smith

Project title: Prioritizing hazardous chemicals in children’s consumer products to improve health and safety

Degree: PhD | Program: Environmental Toxicology (Tox) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2019 | Faculty advisor: Elaine M. Faustman


This dissertation focuses on developing frameworks and supporting evidence for the prioritization of chemicals found in children’s consumer products. Toxic chemicals found in children’s consumer products can impact child health and development. In response to these concerns, Washington and other states have enacted laws requiring manufacturers to report the presence of toxic chemicals in children’s consumer products. These laws have generated extensive data on the types of chemicals children might be exposed to in consumer products and can be useful sources of data for prioritizing chemicals for future action. This dissertation uses data from required reporting laws to generate a prioritization framework, characterize the accuracy of required reporting laws and hypothesize about the safety of alternatives to toxic chemicals. The first objective is to integrate the concentration of potentially hazardous chemicals found in children’s products with exposure and toxicity data to develop a framework for prioritizing chemicals for future research and regulatory actions. We found that chemicals with high toxicity that are found in children’s products with high potential for exposure, such as some phthalates, were among the highest priority chemicals. The second objective compares the concentrations of chemicals in children’s products reported by manufacturers with independent assessments. We found that concentrations of toxic chemicals were generally higher in manufacturer reports than in measurements by the state. This may seem surprising, but actually reflects the structure of the regulation which disincentives underreporting but is silent on overreporting. The final objective looks to the future by assessing the safety of alternative chemicals found in children’s products by determining toxicities of both chemicals and alternatives using authoritative lists, in vivo data and in vitro data. Alternative chemicals were less likely to be considered endocrine disruptors by authoritative lists, however in vitro data revealed biological responses similar to the chemicals they are replacing. This suggests that in some cases, alternatives may not be safer, just less well characterized. Taken together, the objectives of this dissertation demonstrate the utility and importance of required reporting frameworks and point to modifications that can enhance reporting accuracy. URI