You’d have to be living in a bubble not to know about the phthalate controversy – they’re chemicals found in plastics, shampoos, fragances, moisturizers, and other consumer products, and recent studies have shown that high levels of phthalates can cause reproductive problems in males, as well as an increased risk of kidney and liver cancers.
Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Babies R Us have already announced that, effective January 2009, items containing phthalates will no longer be allowed in their stores. California, Washington and Vermont have enacted state-wide bans. Internationally, the European Union has prohibited many phthalates from children’s goods since 1999. Now, Congress has included a ban on certain phthalates in children’s toys in a new bill reforming the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
And boy, is the chemical industry pissed. Millions of dollars have been spent by Exxon Mobil – the manufacturer of one of the most common phthalates found in toys – over the past year and a half in an effort to prevent exactly this kind of ban from going into effect. At least Exxon can take comfort in knowing they bought at least one vote – President Bush has come out in opposition to Congress’ act, although it’s not clear whether or not he will go so far as to veto the measure.
Have you heard the logic used by both the Bush camp and the chemical industry lobby to explain why we should put up with these toxic chemicals?
Apparently, banning phthalates will INCREASE health risks to kids, because the chemicals manufacturers will have to replace them with may be even more dangerous! According to Keith Hennessey, director of Bush’s Economic Policy Council, the ban “may result in the introduction of unregulated substitute chemicals that harm children’s health.”
Is that a threat? “Unregulated substitute chemicals”? I just can’t believe the chemical industry would risk the financial and PR backlash that would occur if it turned out they replaced toxic additives with even more toxic additives. Imagine the lawsuits!
What we need, according to Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sponsored the ban, is to model our regulations after the Europeans, who require that manufacturers first prove a chemical is safe BEFORE it’s allowed to inundate the market. Just a slight improvement over our current M.O., which involves discovering 50 years after their introduction that the chemicals added to virtually every piece of plastic crap in every house nationwide can act like hormones and cause low sperm count, undescended testicles and cancer.