Washington, DC: – Recent House Energy Commerce Committee hearings featured testimony from those in the scientific community with regard to the toxicity of children’s toys containing phthalates, a class of industrial chemicals commonly found in many of the toys, and child care products marketed to children and their parents.
It has been reported that phthalates have been linked to birth defects, liver cancer, and early puberty in girls (a risk factor for breast cancer).
Potentially Dangerous Products that Appear Harmless
The products themselves appear harmless, such as rubber duckies and bath books. They are also soft, which many parents deem a plus when their child is inclined to put the toys in their mouths. With a soft surface and no sharp edges, parents to not fear injury to their child. However, it is the phthalates class of industrial chemicals that go into the product, in order to make the plastic soft and pliable.
Scientists testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee suggest that these toxic chemicals can easily leach into the child’s mouth from the toy.
Toy Manufacturers Respond To Toy Safety Issues
In response, various retailers such as Toys-R-Us, Lego, Evenflo, Gerber and Wal-Mart have taken steps to gradually phase out, or eliminate products containing phthalates altogether. California and Washington have passed legislation to restrict the use of phthalates in children’s products, and 12 other States have, or will soon have similar legislation on the books.
Ban on Phthalates Not Included in Legislation
However, Congress is another story. While a ban on the use of phthalates was included in the US Senate’s version of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act, the House version of the Bill contained no such provision. It is hoped that testimony heard at hearings conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee will serve to inform a bi-partisan committee charged with determining whether or not a ban on phthalates will ultimately be a part of the final version of the consumer safety legislation.
Ted Schettler, M.D., M.P.H., science director at the Science and Environmental Health Network, urged committee members to take action to eliminate exposures to phthalates, particularly in vulnerable populations. “This is a public policy decision that should be informed by good science, and also by values and common sense,” said Schettler.
“The scientific evidence is sufficient to act. If we don’t, we will miss an important opportunity to prevent disease and disability.”
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