Checkbook covers may soon be phthalate-free

 
Heidi Elliott/flickr
 
By Lindsey Konkel
Staff Writer
Environmental Health News
 
Jan. 31, 2014

 

Some checkbook covers may soon be free of a chemical linked to hormone disruption and cancer.

A settlement between Deluxe Corp., a large, Minnesota-based manufacturer of checkbook covers, and a consumer advocate requires the company to remove a phthalate from checkbook covers or label their products with a health warning.

The suit was settled under a California law known as Proposition 65, which requires companies to inform consumers when selling products in California that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.

"The quality and safety of our products are paramount. We do not believe that the use of any of our checkbook covers, as intended, creates any kind of health risk. We are providing warnings consistent with California law. We are taking steps to reformulate checkbook cover material in a timely manner," a Deluxe Corp. spokesperson said Thursday.

In 2012, California resident Russell Brimer alleged in the lawsuit that Deluxe Corp. was selling checkbook covers containing traces of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate. Known as DEHP, it is used to soften plastics. Chemical manufacturers have said that phthalates are safe at the small amounts found in vinyl products.

“Often companies will opt to reformulate products rather than adding warnings, resulting in safer products for consumers.” –Sam Delson, California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment  DEHP is listed by California as a carcinogen and male developmental toxicant. It has been linked to lower testosterone and altered development of reproductive organs in studies of lab animals and people.

The lawsuit alleged that testing showed that the levels of the chemical in the checkbook covers exceeded the amount that the state deemed safe under Prop. 65. The settlement includes a commitment by Deluxe that all checkbook covers sold in California will not contain DEHP at a level exceeding 0.1 percent or they will contain health hazard warnings.

“Often companies will opt to reformulate products rather than adding warnings, resulting in safer products for consumers,” said Sam Delson, deputy director of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which determines which chemicals qualify for the law.

Stephen Cohen, a senior attorney with Chanler Group, a Berkeley, Calif..-based law firm that filed the suit, estimates that millions of checkbook covers will be affected. The suit includes covers as well as the plastic inserts inside.

Deluxe Corporation, which says it is “America’s best-known check brand,” has 4 million small business customers and 6,200 financial institution clients.

As part of the settlement, Deluxe will pay up to $135,000 in fines, with a portion to be waived if the company meets a June, 2015 deadline of certifying that it at has reformulated at least 90 percent of its checkbook covers.

 

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