Reports filed by companies including Gap Inc, Gymboree Corp, Nike Inc, H&M and Wal-Mart Stores to comply with a Washington State law are said to have shown "chemicals of high concern" in products made or marketed for children, research has discovered.

An analysis of the reports by Environmental Health News found toys and other children's products were on sale containing low levels of dozens of industrial chemicals - including methyl ethyl ketone and cobalt in clothing and footwear.

The data is listed in an online database set up as part of disclosure rules under Washington State's Children's Safe Product Act, enacted in 2008.

The presence of a chemical in a product does not mean it is harmful to human health or that it fails to meet or exceed federal and state safety requirements.

But studies have linked the chemicals to cancer or to reproductive, developmental, or neurological effects in animals or people. Babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable, as they tend to chew on items or rub them on their skin.

Under the Washington State Children's Safe Products Act (CSPA), companies must disclose the presence of any one of 66 'Chemicals of High Concern to Children' (CHCC) in any children's products on sale in the State.

A company is not required to report the presence of a CHCC in a product if it has a functioning management system (RSL program) to manage the concentration of that CHCC to an industry-acceptable level. The reports are then published on the Department of Ecology Website.

The law is being implemented in phases. The first phase began in August 2012 for the companies with the largest sales for products that are applied directly to skin or that are intended to be mouthed.  

Every six months to a year, the report requirements are applied to a wider scope of products and to companies that are progressively smaller. The full law is supposed to be phased-in by August 2018.

Children's clothes and shoes sold in the state of Washington by the largest tier of companies become subject to the CSPA in February 2013. Small companies - those selling $100,000 or less - have until August 2017.