Phthalates are chemicals that added to common plastic products to make them soft and pliable and they can be found in a variety of children’s toys and childcare products that are frequently put in a child’s mouth, such as teethers, rubber ducks, and soft bath books. They are also found in a number of common household items such as vinyl shower curtains, artificial fragrances and nail polish.
California recently became the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of phthalates in children’s toys and other childcare articles. The European Union has banned all phthalates, and Mexico has blocked imports and sales of plastic products made with phthalates for children. Thirteen additional countries have also taken steps to ban or restrict the use of phthalates.
“Simply put, products that pose a danger to children’s health should not be in the mouths of children. But phthalates have been found in a variety of plastic toys that are often put in children’s mouths, such as rubber ducks, teething rings, and soft bath books. And we know that exposure to phthalates can cause serious long-term health effects,” Senator Feinstein said. “California recently became the first state to ban phthalates. And the federal government should do the same.”
The problem is this: exposure to phthalates can cause severe long-term health effects. Phthalates interfere with the functioning of the hormone system, and can cause reproductive defects. And young children are particularly vulnerable.
· In 2005, a University of Rochester School of Medicine study found that pregnant women with high levels of phthalates in their urine were more likely to give birth to boys with birth defects in their reproductive systems.
· Researchers at Harvard University School of Public Health have found that men with high phthalate levels have increased levels of damaged sperm DNA and lower sperm counts.
· In 2003, researchers at the Perrino Hospital in Brindisi, Italy, linked phthalate exposure to premature birth.
· In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found elevated levels of phthalates in children.
The bill introduced today by Senator Feinstein is modeled after the California and European Union bans. Specifically, the bill would:
· Ban toys and childcare products that have more than a trace amount (0.1 percent) of any one of six types of phthalates.
· Require manufactures to use the safest possible alternative to phthalates.
Representatives Darleen Hooley (D-Ore.), Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced identical companion legislation in the House.
You can find more on phthalates at the Human Toxome Project and the Environmental Working Group. Many thanks to Senator Feinstein for getting the ball rolling on the federal level on this issue. Phthalates are commonly used in synthetic and artificial fragrances and can be found in many common household cleaning products as well, that utilize synthetic fragrances.