Statewide Ban Enacted: Phthalates

Front-page news last week from the California Assembly highlighted passage of a statewide ban on phthalates, a softener in plastics (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/16/07). A nationwide push to ban phthalates is currently taking place in nine other states as well, according to the advocacy group Environment California. Though common in the US in items ranging from baby bottles, toys and teething rings to hospital IV bags, household cleansers and cosmetic fragrances, phthalates are banned in fourteen countries, as well as the European Union.

“Death by Perfume”

Long suspected of causing adverse health effects, phthalates in items ranging from plastics to perfumes have been linked to hormone disruption in animals, developmental damage in young children, and breast cancer (Gretchen Lee, Breast Cancer Fund, op cit). In the class of phthalates is the substance that “fixes” the scent in perfumes, making their smell linger. Phthalate enables molten acrylic to soften, and its noxious volatile odor is what causes nausea, headaches and other neurological symptoms in susceptible people when exposed to the smell of acrylic nails being applied in manicure shops.

Industry representatives claim that a ban will deny consumers the products they “want and need” by removing them from store shelves, and that “scientific reviews here and in Europe have found these toys safe for children to use.”(Jack Gerard, American Chemistry Council, ibid). However, a ban by the European Union suggests otherwise. Absent citation of such scientific reviews, one suspects they may be industry-funded research commissioned and designed to arrive at the conclusion of safety.