Enviro-Health News Release
For more information, contact: Amanda Sears, Associate Director, Environmental Health Strategy Center, (207) 939-7333
Congress Agrees to Ban Reproductive Toxin From Children's Products
Phthalates Have Been Detected in Toys and People Tested in Maine
The Congressional Committee charged with reconciling differences between the House and Senate versions of a proposed federal toy safety law agreed last night to a provision that will ban six phthalates from children's products. Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics and add fragrance to products. The federal toy safety legislation that contains the phthalate ban is expected to be voted on this week by both chambers of Congress.
The proposed phthalate ban will eliminate use of the chemicals at levels greater than 0.10% concentration in children's toys and childcare articles such as teething rings and soft tipped spoons. The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, a Maine based coalition working to phase out the use of unnecessary, toxic chemicals in consumer products, found these levels are routinely exceeded in products currently on the shelves of stores throughout Maine. The Alliance had 24 children's products tested earlier this year for the presence of the six phthalates included in the federal legislation. Fifteen of the 24, had phthalate concentrations greater than 0.10%. The products with the highest concentrations included dolls, a crib mattress cover, a ball, and an inflatable baby bath tub. Europe, California, and Washington State already have adopted legislation banning phthalates from children's products.
"Congress should act to ban phthalates in children's products, they should also use this as a wake up call to the fact that the use of unsafe chemicals in consumer products has been largely unregulated in the United States" said Amanda Sears, associate director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, a Maine based public health organization. "Our federal chemical safety system is broken and while we act to phase out some of the most egregious examples. like toxics in toys, we also need to fix the system so that all products are safe for our families."
Phthalates were among the chemicals sampled for in a study of pollution in Maine people released last year. In the Body Of Evidence study seven phthalate compounds were detected in almost all thirteen participants. The levels of six of the phthalates were higher than the national average. For one phthalate, the median Maine value was higher than 95% of all Americans who have been tested for exposure. Phthalates are so ubiquitous they were found in all 1,000 people tested in a 1999 study by the Food and Drug Administration.
Phthalate exposure has 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, one of the six phthalates subject the to proposed ban, as a probable human carcinogen.