Results from new testing released today by the Alliance for a Clean & Healthy Maine show high levels of phthalates, toxic chemicals that have been linked to harmful health effects, in popular children’s products. Waterproof crib mattress covers, teething rings, toys, and bubble bath are among the products recently tested by a Maine lab for the presence of phthalates. Twenty of the 24 products tested contained phthalates, chemicals banned in children’s products in Europe, California and Washington State.
“Do we value our children any less in Maine than they do in Europe or on the west coast? No, absolutely not. Why then do we allow products too toxic for their children to be sold here to ours?” asked Amanda Sears, the mother of a four month-old baby girl and Associate Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, a Maine based public health organization that led the product-testing project. “This study makes it clear that our system to manage use of hazardous chemicals in products is badly broken. The Maine Legislature can act this week to protect our children by passing LD 2048, the Kid-Safe Products bill, which will help Maine ensure the products on store shelves are safe for Maine families.”
For this study 24 products made for small children were purchased at Target, the Dollar Tree, and Toys R Us in South Portland. The Alliance for a Clean & Healthy Maine paid the Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory to analyze the products to determine whether or not they contained phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals used to add fragrance to products and to soften plastics.
Decades of laboratory research have shown that phthalates can derail normal development of the male reproductive system, and studies in people are beginning to confirm the effects at current exposure levels. Baby boys whose mothers are exposed to high levels of phthalates during pregnancy are more likely to have altered genital development. Animal tests show that phthalate exposure leads to small or otherwise abnormal testes, hypospadias (abnormal urinary openings on the penis) and undescended testes in young males. Phthalate exposure has also been linked to lower sperm counts, reduced sperm motility, and damaged sperm. Other potential effects include reduced female fertility and premature breast development in young girls, liver and kidney damage and asthma. The EPA classifies the phthalate DEHP, the most commonly found phthalate in the products tested as part of this study, as a probable human carcinogen.
- 83% of the products sampled contained phthalates.
- In some cases phthalates made up a very large proportion of the total content of the product. A baby doll contained 46% phthalates, a ball was made of 54% phthalates, and phthalates made up 35% of a waterproof crib mattress cover.
- Products designed to get babies “clean” at bath time including bubble bath, a rubber ducky, and inflatable baby bathtub all tested positive for phthalates.
- Soft plastics, including vinyl, can be made without phthalates. Vinyl bibs and three of the toys were phthalate free.
“My four month old son, Porter, is the target demographic for many of these products and yet exposure to them may impair his ability to have children of his own someday. That’s unacceptable,” said Jesse Graham, Executive Director of the Maine Peoples Alliance.
The Maine Legislature is expected to vote as early as today on LD 2048, a bill that would protect children from exposure to unsafe chemicals in consumer products. LD 2048, “An Act to Protect Children’s Health and the Environment from Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Products” would create a process to identify unnecessary, dangerous chemicals in children’s products, study the safer alternatives and phase out the toxic chemicals when alternatives are safer, effective and affordable. This legislation directs Maine to cooperate with other states to share information and collaboratively fill the gaps in the broken federal safety system for toxic chemicals.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals because their bodies are developing rapidly, and their systems are especially susceptible to the effects of toxic chemicals, even at very low doses. Children inevitably put toys in their mouths and ingest contaminated house dust, increasing their exposure. Among the products testing positive for phthalates in this study some, like the Triangular Teether, are designed to be in a babies’ mouth and chewed on. Other products, like the waterproof mattress cover that contained 35% phthalates, are heavily used by young children resulting in greater opportunities for exposure.
“The chemical industry is working overtime to kill the bill through deliberately spreading misinformation and confusion about LD 2048,” said Matt Prindiville, Toxics Project Director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine who has been lobbying in support of the bill in the State House. “However, the truth is clear to any parent. We expect the products on our store shelves to be safe for Maine families. This bill is a first step towards protecting Maine kids from the worst of the worst chemicals in consumer products.”
For more information about the product testing results or LD 2048, the kid-safe products bill please contact Amanda Sears at 207-939-7333 or visit www.cleanandhealthyme.org.