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Factsheet: TCEP in Products for Young Children

News Release: Harper Government Introduces Proposed Regulations to Protect Children from Harmful Chemical

What is TCEP?
Tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP) is an industrial chemical with flame retardant properties, which may be used in the manufacture of polyurethane foam (PUF). Canadians may be exposed to TCEP from consumer products made of PUF, such as furniture or mattresses, electronics, adhesives, non-apparel textiles, the back-coating of carpets, rubber and plastics, and paints and varnishes.

What are the health risks?
The Government of Canada, through its Chemicals Management Plan, found that TCEP may be harmful to human health as it is a carcinogen and may cause impaired fertility. Health Canada considers children under three years of age to be at the greatest risk of adverse health effects from exposure to TCEP. TCEP is not believed to pose a risk to the general population.

Frequent mouthing and sucking activity among infants and young children under three years of age is a common and necessary part of their behaviour and development. As TCEP can migrate out of foam toys and foam children's products, including through fabric coverings, in response to sucking or chewing, young children are considered to be at greater risk of oral exposure to TCEP. Additionally, due to their low body weight and rapid rate of physical growth and development, young children are considered to be more vulnerable to the possible adverse health effects of the substance.

What will the TCEP Regulations do?
These proposed regulations would prohibit the use of TCEP in products intended for children under 3 years of age, such as toys, books, positioning devices, etc. Surveys with industry stakeholders have indicated that there is currently limited, if any, use of TCEP in PUF. It has been replaced by different flame retardants. This prohibition would prevent its future use in these products, including prohibiting the import of TCEP-containing children's products into Canada.

How can I know if children's products and toys in my home contain TCEP?
In 2009 and 2010, a total of 40 products were selected and tested for TCEP. Of these tested products, 4 were found to contain TCEP. These products were 2 foam books and 2 sleep positioners. The North American industry has largely moved away from the use of TCEP in PUF and replaced it with alternatives. However, TCEP may be present in products manufactured over the past 20 years and imported children's products available for sale in Canada. If your child is sucking or chewing on older or imported foam toys, you may want to remove them to prevent TCEP exposure.

Where can I get more information on TCEP?
For more information on TCEP, please contact:

Consumer Product Safety Directorate
Health Canada
Address Locator: 4908A
269 Laurier Avenue W.
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0K9