Low levels of phthalates in more than 700 products

Dan Harrelson/flickr
By Jane Kay
Environmental Health News
May 6, 2013

Eight different phthalates, which are controversial, hormone-disrupting chemicals used to make vinyl and fragrances, showed up in more than 770 children's products.

A dozen big businesses reported low levels of DEHP, DBP and BBP in plastic of baby changing mats, infant stimulation toys, dolls, soft toys, games and bedding. Harmony Juvenile Products reported all three phthalates in baby car and booster seats. Triboro Quilt Manufacturing Co. reported them in a wide range of products, including clothes, bedding and toys that could end up in the mouth.

Congress in 2008 banned the sale of children’s toys that contain any of the three phthalates at levels above 0.1 percent. The ban also applies to items used for sleeping, feeding or teething of children age 3 or younger. A similar, interim ban applies to three other phthalates, DINP, DIOP and DIDP.

Washington state regulators say most of the phthalates in the reports fell below the federal level. If they exceeded it, or if random testing reveals excessive levels, state officials said they would follow up with the companies. Some companies, including Wal-Mart, submitted third-party testing showing that phthalate levels complied.

Alan Kaufman, a senior vice president of the Toy Industry Association, said many chemicals remain bound up in the material or at such low levels that they wouldn't cause problems.

But several studies have found that consumer products can expose humans through direct contact and use, indirectly through leaching into other products or through general household and environmental contamination.

Cosmetics, household cleaning products and home flooring were linked to various phthalates in the urine of pregnant women, according to a study by University of North Carolina researchers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted it was plausible that children sucking and chewing on plastic toys would be exposed.

When researchers measured the urine of 163 infants who had been exposed to lotions, powders or shampoos within the past 24 hours, they found phthalate breakdown products in four out of every five babies, according to a University of Washington study.

Studies of animals and human babies show that some phthalates disrupt reproductive hormones and sexual development. Some are linked to asthma and skin disease in children.

A breakthrough in research came in 2005 when University of Rochester scientists found sexual organ abnormalities in baby boys. Mothers whose prenatal urine contained the highest concentrations of certain phthalate byproducts gave birth to boys with signs of feminized genitalia.

For more information on phthalates in products, search the Washington state database.


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