Flame Retardants in Play Yards: The Facts, The New Laws and The Safest Options

With so many play yards on the market today, each boasting convenient, simple-to-use features, it might become a stressful feat to choose the right one for your baby. While your play yard needs might vary from use for the occasional overnight trip, a safe play space for your little one while you are completing household chores or your infant’s main sleep space for naps and bedtime, the most important features to consider are safety and toxicity

These days, it seems that while many big companies promote the most innovative safety features for their baby products, plastering award stats on the labels of their boxes in big, bold letters, an equally important and risky element is hiding in the limelight, overlooked by cautious parents who are being bombarded with safety statistics, and conveniently forgotten by the retailers who are tossing them at them: Toxins. 

Toxins are in everything. They are virtually unavoidable without a cost – a cost that big retailers simply don’t want to pay. Heavy metals, chemicals, flame retardants – these are all found in many of the products from some of the most trusted baby and children’s retailers out there.  And play yards are no exception.

Let’s talk about flame retardant chemicals. 

While brominated tris (a very popular flame retardant used in children’s pajamas in the 70s) became illegal for use in children’s products after studies revealed it to be a DNA mutagen and carcinogen, it was replaced with an arguably equally toxic chemical flame retardant, chlorinated tris. Companies were putting flame retardants in everything from furniture cushions to children’s bedding, in order to comply with the CA TB 117 law. This law required certain upholstery, cushions and children’s products to meet a 12 second open flame flammability test. So, it was virtually impossible to find children’s bedding, car seats and even strollers without flame retardant chemicals in them unless you searched outside the pool of US retailers. 

With studies showing adverse effects from flame retardants, such as lower IQ, hormonal changes, infertility, birth defects and thyroid issues – just to name a few, parents and scientists started voicing their concerns and needs for children’s products sans these toxic chemicals… and California listened. Over the last few years, CA has slowly been eliminating the requirements for one flame retardant at a time. And after being presented with studies that proved that the flame retardants weren’t actually helpful in conjunction with the 12 second open flame flammability test, CA passed a new law on flame retardants. TB 117-2013 now excludes the requirement for flame retardants in 20 major baby products – such as strollers, car seats and play yards. 

Great news, right? …sort of. 

While companies are not required by law to include flame retardants in these baby products anymore, some of them still do. There are a few things you can do to ensure that the products you buy for your little ones do not include flame retardants. 

  • Contact the company and ask outright for a list of any chemicals they use in their products.
  • Check the tags on the products and make sure they say that they comply with the new law, TB 117-2013, and not the old TB 117.
  • Only purchase products from trust-worthy companies that make green, nontoxic products. 
  • If you are unsure whether or not a product you already own contains flame retardant chemicals, you can get it tested. For more information, click here.
Product Recommendation

If you’re looking for a play yard that is free from toxic chemicals and puts safety first, look no further than Nuna’s Sena. Nuna is a Dutch company that prides itself on its innovative and green way of thinking, designing and creating. Produced in an eco-friendly, green factory, the Sena play yard is designed for the eco-conscious, on-the-go parents who always have their hands full. 

Sena Features:

  • Zig-zag leg design makes folding with one hand a breeze.
  • Upper infant cot and insert actually folds up with the entire play yard.
  • Sturdy aluminum frame is raised above ground to prevent drafts for your sleeping baby.
  • Thick padding around all internal framework prevents your baby from pinching her fingers.
  • Made with certified Oeko-Tex fabric with thick, quilted mattress pad for ultimate comfort.
  • Has skid-proof feet.
  • All metals and materials comply with European REACH and EN71 standards as well as CPSIA in the US to ensure your baby is sleeping and playing in a nontoxic environment.
Sena Specifications:
  • Recommended use: from birth to 3 years
  • Open Dimensions: 30.7 in high x 41.3 in wide x 29.5 in deep
  • Folded dimensions: 34.5 in high x 10.6 in wide x 11.8 in deep
  • Mattress dimensions: 37 in x 27 in
  • Weight: 23.6 lbs
From one mom to another:

When my daughter outgrew her Hushamok hammock, I knew we had to find another sleep place for her that was just as comfortable, safe and nontoxic. The Sena met all of our expectations and then some. I was worried about transitioning her from a hammock to a play yard; but because of the plush, quality mattress that is typically not found in common play yards, she took right to it and snuggled into it her very first night sleeping in it.

I love the rounded design of it, making it both more visually appealing than a typical play yard and quite literally less rough around the edges. One of the things that really stands out about the Sena play yard is how sturdy and durable it is. It boasts all of the features of a permanent sleep space, but is so easy to fold up and travel with. I know that we will use this play yard for our daughter for the next few years until she outgrows it. 




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Photo credit: With A Red Bird On My Shoulder

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Danielle is a Pittsburgh native who has been warming her “black and gold” blood in sunny Northern California for the past 6 years. On any given day, you can find her arranging ridiculous photo shoots of her one-year-old son Graeme and cat Gizmo, or working on any one of her 27,000 writing projects. She enjoys daydreaming about becoming a famous actress and starting a handful of different businesses with her husband over glasses of wine in the evenings. Someday, she hopes to travel the country in an RV with her family… but she needs to sell that novel first. You can follow her journeys through her blog With A Red Bird On My Shoulder

Comments (2)

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    So is the Nuna Sena free of flame retardants? Did you use in place of a crib or in addition to one? I’m thinking of getting the mini version for my LO because we don’t have room for a regular crib and all the mini cribs i could find contained toxins. Thanks in advance!


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    I agree that flame retardants are to be avoided! After recommending the Nuna, no mention is made about the topic of this article, which is flame retardants. Only the specs on the construction are noted. If you have any information on chemical treatments and/or types of foams use, that would be useful. Thank you.


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