Bush is OK with toxic toys? Really?

This is unconscionable — to insist that it is all right to expose infants and toddlers to known carcinogens in response to vigorous lobbying by the big oil/chemical companies.

Today it was announced the Congress has reached an agreement to ban phthalates from toys and other children’s products.   Phthalates are a class of chemicals that are known carcinogens which also cause other health problems.  But  White House spokesman Tony Fratto issued a statement opposing the bill and refused to rule out a Presidential veto.

So it looks like Bush puts the interests of Big Oil above those of the youngest, most vulnerable Americans.  No surprise here but leaving me with a stomach-churning rage nonetheless.

The Washington Post article that discussed this bill did a pretty good job of explaining the issues but left out one critical fact:  the EU has already banned phthalates and the toy companies have already re-formulated their products for the EU market.  The companies are already making and selling different versions of the same product — a safer one for the EU market without phthalates — plus another version for the U.S. market.

Why won’t the chemical companies lobbying so heavily against the ban admit that replacement products are already available?

Daryl Ditz, senior policy adviser at the Center for International Environmental Law, said industry viewed the ban as a benchmark that might signal a shift in Congress’s willingness to toughen restrictions on toxins.

“The great fear is that if a big, established chemical like this can be driven from the market, what’s next?” he said.   http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/28/AR2008072802586.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR

How much money has been spent fighting this effort to protect children from harmful chemicals?  The Washington Post article only mentions one example:  a significant chunk of the $22 million lobbying budget of ExxonMobil was allocated to this fight.  In case you didn’t know, ExxonMobil (the oil  company raking in record profits this year) is also the manufacturer of diisononyl phthalate, or DINP, the phthalate most frequently found in children’s toys.

What’s at stake is children’s safety.  It is better to err on the side of caution when making decisions about products that could be detrimental to their health.  If we wait till there is absolute certitude about the harmful effects of these chemicals, countless children may suffer.

Some of the scientific evidence so far is really frightening:

Most research on phthalates has been performed on rodents, and chemical makers say there is no evidence that humans are similarly affected. They also contend that children are exposed to phthalate levels far below the doses administered to laboratory rats.

But the first study involving human babies in 2005 raised questions about those arguments. Federally funded research by the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester Medical School found that male babies born to women with high levels of phthalates in their blood exhibited changes related to low sperm count, undescended testicles and other reproductive problems. In that study, the infants were exposed to phthalate levels way below the doses administered in rat experiments. Other studies have connected some phthalates to liver and kidney cancer.

Health experts argue that dangers may be more significant from cumulative exposure, because phthalates surround babies not only in toys and products but also in breast milk if the mother has been exposed to the chemicals.

Another reason why infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of phthalates is that these chemicals are used in products to make the plastic soft, pliable and attractive for chewing.  Any parent can attest to the everything-goes-into-the-mouth behavior of infants and toddlers.  Parents should not have to worry about the health risks of teething rings and soft toys.

I will give the lead sponsor of this bill the final word:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who sponsored the measure, said yesterday that the action is a first step toward moving the United States closer to the European model, where industry must prove the safety of a chemical before it is allowed on the market.

“Chemical additives should not be placed in products that can impact health adversely until they are tested and found to be benign,” she said.

This is an approach to consumer product safety that should be adopted for all products not just children’s toys.

Explore posts in the same categories: big oil lobbying, consumer protection, phthalates, politics, Senator Dianne Feinstein, toxic toy ban

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