Archive for December 6, 2008

Are Phthalates on Your Christmas Shopping List?

Today Scientific American Reports:

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Public Citizen yesterday sued the feds to force them to order stores to remove tot’s toys and childcare products that contain toxic plastics called phthalates from their shelves pronto.

The watchdog groups charge in the complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is flouting “the will of Congress” by allowing retailers to stockpile and continue to sell products from dolls to rubber ducks containing the chemicals after Feb. 10 — the date a federally mandated ban on their production and sale is set to take effect — as long as they were manufactured before the deadline.

So, let me get this straight — it’s not enough that we need to worry about lead paint and alloys in toys, and melamine in cookies and candies — the FDA has apparently decided that phthalates belong under the tree as well?  I’m sure that some of you are going to whine about potential health risks and other petty concerns —  but really — why should we want to do something silly like protect the health of the children, adults and pets in this country when it might inconvenience retailers or manufacturers?  (Even if that group includes manufacturers who have continued to put the chemicals in their products for years after their adverse affects were discovered.)

poisonduckie

And why are phthalates a problem? Well, they’re commonly added to plastic toys to make them soft and pliable Like many of the toys made for babies, toddlers — and pets. So — first of all, they’re not only common, but the items made with them are often meant to be chewed on by babies and pets. Phthalates were also one of the first groups of chemical compounds found to potentially have more severe and widespread problems of chronic than acute toxicity. Compounds with acute toxicity take you down quickly. They can injure or incapacitate  or kill you in a short period of time when you ingest them in relatively high dosages. Nearly everything in the world is “acutely toxic” at some dosage . Even water — if you drink or inhale too much of it — it will kill you. Chronic toxicity, on the other hand, sneaks up on you. It arises from cumulative exposure. Ingesting just a little bit of lead-contaminated drinking water won’t hurt you — unless you do it on a regular basis for months or years. And then it will cause neurological damage or kill you.

Phthalates mimic the actions of hormones. So they interfere with the normal functions hormones are responsible for. Chronic exposure to phthalates can decrease sperm production, cause premature breast development, adversely affect male genital development, increase sensitivity to allergens, cause liver cancer and more. Phthalates  are lipo-phillic or fat-loving molecules — meaning that they accumulate in fat deposits where they are retained by the body for a long time. So any phthalates you’ve ingested will be with you for a long time — giving them more chances to disrupt your hormonal system.  Another important factor is that phthalates are metabolized in the body to a range of secondary compounds that have potential toxic effects of their own.

But hey — be smart, listen to the friendly folks at the  Corporate Salary Protection Consumer Safety Product Commission, not to me — and don’t worry about phthalates in the toys that your child or your pet chews on.  Just think of those pesky adverse health affects as your little contribution to corporate America (and the campaign contributions it so generously supplies to those friendly greedy folks who misrepresent us in Washington.)

December 6, 2008 at 2:06 am 3 comments


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