The Safe Toys Petition for Dutchess County sign now

Do you think that the Dutchess County Legislature should follow the example set by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in June 2006 and ban dangerously toxic toys in our county that contain bispenol-A or certain kinds of phthalates?

If you do, sign on to this petition, pass it on, and contact our County Legislature at [email protected] and [email protected] (for background information on this issue below).

Joel Tyner
County Legislator
Clinton/Rhinebeck
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
[email protected]
(845) 876-2488

p.s. See: PetitionOnline.com/forCasey; text of San Francisco legislation passed June 6, 2006:
sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/bdsupvrs/ordinances06/o0120-06.pdf;
San Francisco City Council Environmental Committee minutes (11/14/07):
sfgov.org/site/sfenvironment_page.asp?id=71603.

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[here below is the local law submitted by Tyner on this 12/20/07, essentially modeled after San Francisco legislation]

A local law amending the Dutchess County Sanitary Code by adding a provision to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution in commerce of any toy or child care article that is intended for use by a child under three years of age if it contains bisphenol-A or other specified chemicals, and to require manufacturers to use the least toxic alternative to those substances, and setting an operative date.

The Dutchess County Sanitary Code is hereby amended by adding Amendment 28 with the following three sections:

1. PROHIBITING THE SALE OF TOYS AND CHILD CARE ARTICLES MADE WITH BISPHENOL-A

(a) Bishenol-A, an estrogen-mimicking endocrine disrupter chemical, is used in the production of epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics and is the main ingredient in hard polycarbonate plastics. The plastics are used in many food and drink packaging applications, and the resins are commonly used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes.

(b) Bisphenol-A has been shown to have hormone-disrupting effects and is used in many products designed for children, including, but not limited to, toys, pacifiers, baby bottles, and teethers.

(c) No person or entity shall manufacture, sell, or distribute in commerce within Dutchess County any toy or child care article intended for use by a child if that product has been made with or contains bisphenol-A.

(d) For the purposes of this Chapter, the following terms have the following meanings:

(i) "Toy" means an article designed and made for the amusement of a child or for his or her use in play and likely to be placed in a child's mouth.

(ii) "Child care article" means all products designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep, relaxation, or the feeding of children or to help children with sucking or teething.

2. PROHIBITING THE SALE OF TOYS AND CHILD CARE ARTICLES MADE WITH PHTHALATES

(a) Phthalates are chemicals used to plasticize some food containers, plastic wrap, toys, shampoos, perfumes, and beauty products.

(b) Phthalates have been shown to have hormone-disrupting effects. However, they are used in many products intended for use by young children, including, but not limited to, toys, pacifiers, baby bottles, and teethers.

(c) No person or entity shall manufacture, sell, or distribute in commerce within Dutchess County any toy or child care article that is made with or contains di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), di butyl phthalate (DBP), or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) in concentrations exceeding 0.1 percent.

(d) No person or entity shall manufacture, sell, or distribute in commerce within Dutchess County any toy or child care article intended for use by a child if that product can be placed in the child's mouth and has been made with or contains diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), or di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP) in concentrations exceeding 0.1 percent.

3. LEAST-TOXIC ALTERNATIVES

(a) Manufacturers within Dutchess County shall use the least toxic alternative when replacing bisphenol-A and phthalates in accordance with this Chapter.

(b) Manufacturers shall not replace bisphenol-A and phthalates pursuant to this Chapter with carcinogens rated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as A, B, or C carcinogens, or substances listed as known or likely carcinogens, known to be human carcinogens, likely to be human carcinogens, as described in the "List of Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential," or known to the State of New York to cause cancer.

(c) Manufacturers shall not replace bisphenol-A and phthalates pursuant to this Chapter with reproductive toxicants that cause birth defects, reproductive harm, or developmental harm as identified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The provisions of this Local Law shall become operative January 1, 2009; this ordinance shall be suspended by operation of law upon the operative date of any substantially similar legislation enacted by the State of New York or Congress.

4. PENALTIES

(a) Manufacturers, distributors or retailers violating the law would be subject to fines up to $500 initially, $1000 a for a second violation, and ultimately possibly six months in the Dutchess County Jail.

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"Toxic Toys" by Jane Kay San Francisco Chronicle [11/19/06]
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/11/19/TOXICTOYS.TMP
[excerpt here below]

Widely used chemicals with suspected links to cancer and developmental problems in humans are present in common baby products like the yellow rubber ducky, bath books and clear plastic bottles, a Chronicle analysis confirmed.

The toxic chemicals, which are used to harden or soften plastics, can leach out each time a baby sucks on a favorite doll or gnaws on a cool teething ring, scientists say.

Starting Dec. 1, a first-in-the-nation ban goes into effect in San Francisco, prohibiting the sale, distribution and manufacture of baby products containing any level of bisphenol A and certain levels of phthalates.

The law, modeled on a European Union ban that started this year, reflects emerging concerns by environmental health scientists over the buildup of industrial chemicals in humans, particularly young children. Especially under scrutiny are chemicals that mimic estrogen, possibly disrupting the hormonal system and altering the normal workings of genes.

Yet the trouble is that no one knows for sure how many baby products contain the chemicals.

Stores, many of which are still unaware of the pending ban, will be unable to decide what to take off the shelves because manufacturers aren't required to disclose what chemicals go into a product. For that reason, The Chronicle set out to test several common baby toys and found that most of them -- even ones labeled "safe, non-toxic" -- contained the chemicals.

Toymakers and companies affected by the ban have sued to block enforcement of the San Francisco law, saying their products have been used safely for decades. A January hearing is scheduled. If the courts uphold the measure, most companies say they'll comply with the ban even though they believe it's unnecessary...

"Be that as it may, if there's a question, all the products that we make will be made without phthalates by 2007," he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admits that its own guidelines -- called reference doses -- for safe human exposure to the chemicals are decades old and don't take into account the new research. The EPA is actively reassessing the health risks of three types of phthalates but is not reassessing bisphenol A, agency spokeswoman Suzanne Ackerman said.

The Food and Drug Administration, which controls chemicals that may touch food, and Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is responsible for toy safety, haven't limited the chemicals in baby products for years. Representatives say they have no plans to impose new restrictions.
Chemical-makers say that's appropriate.

"We believe at very low levels of exposure, there is no concern," said Marian Stanley, a spokeswoman for the four U.S. phthalate-makers.

Low doses of bisphenol A are also not a health risk, said Steve Hentges, a spokesman for the five major U.S. companies that make that chemical. "In every case, the weight of evidence supports the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health at the extremely low levels to which people might be exposed," he said.

Many scientists who study the materials disagree and point to hundreds of scientific studies they say show why bans such as San Francisco's are needed.

It's not the first time San Francisco has led the way in instituting a chemical ban. A decade ago, its leaders voted to eliminate the most toxic pesticides from city property. That sort of action is needed to cut exposure to harmful chemicals, said Dr. Richard Jackson, a UC Berkeley professor who for a decade headed the Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We don't want dry-cleaning solvents in our livers, lead in our brains or perchlorate in our thyroids. We certainly don't want endocrine disrupters in breast milk and umbilical cord blood. We need to be ratcheting down these levels in people by reducing the loading of these chemicals in the environment,'' Jackson said.

The Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety, a group based at the World Health Organization, recommended in September prevention of exposure to known hazards from chemicals already detected in some toys.

"Protections for children from chemicals in toys are weak at best and dysfunctional at worst,'' said Joel Tickner, a professor of environmental health at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He has served as a consultant to the forum and on national panels that advise the U.S. government on chemicals in the environment.

"Consumers would be astonished if they knew that federal laws regulating chemicals in children's toys all require balancing the benefits of protecting children with the costs to industry of implementing safer alternatives," he said.

The tests

It's often impossible for parents to tell if the teething ring or baby rattle they hand their children contains bisphenol A or phthalates. The Chronicle purchased 16 children's products and sent them to the STAT Analysis Corp. laboratory in Chicago, one of the few commercial labs that test for these chemicals.

The city's ordinance bans the manufacture, distribution or sale of items intended for children younger than 3 if they contain any level of bisphenol A. Six different forms of phthalates are covered by the ban, which sets the maximum phthalate level at 0.1 percent of the chemical makeup of any part of the product. Three of those phthalates are banned only in items intended for kids younger than 3, but the law doesn't include age limits for products that contain three other phthalates -- DEHP, DBP and BBP.

Some items exceeded the city's phthalate limits:

-- Little Remedies Little Teethers, a Prestige Brands product sold with an oral pain-relief gel, contained one phthalate at nearly five times the limit.
-- The face of Goldberger's Fuzzy Fleece Baby doll contained one form of phthalate at nearly twice the limit.
-- A rubber ducky sold at a Walgreens store contained a carcinogenic form of phthalate, DEHP, at levels 13 times higher than allowed under San Francisco's pending ordinance. A second form of phthalate was found three times above the limit.

These products were found to contain bisphenol A and would be banned in the city:

-- The ring on a Baby Einstein rattle made by the Disney Co.
-- A Fun Ice Soothing Ring teether made by Munchkin Inc.
-- The plastic covers on two of Random House's waterproof books -- "Elmo Wants a Bath" and Dr. Seuss' "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish." The books also contain levels of phthalates below San Francisco's limit.
-- A Walgreen-brand baby bottle decorated with colorful fish.
-- The face of the Goldberger doll.
-- The body of a My Little Pony toy contained both bisphenol A and one form of phthalate that measured three times the city's limit. The toy wouldn't fall under the San Francisco ban, however, because it's marketed for ages 3 and up. It didn't contain high enough levels of the other three phthalates to be subject to the ban.

The method used by STAT to test for bisphenol A wasn't sensitive enough to detect the chemical in three polycarbonate clear plastic baby bottles made by Philips Avent, Gerber and Playtex and one clear plastic Gerber cup. Experts from the American Plastics Council, however, say that polycarbonate plastic can't be made without bisphenol A. Those items would be banned under the San Francisco law.

The lab didn't detect the chemicals in three other products chosen by The Chronicle:

-- A Baby Einstein caterpillar teething ring.
-- A no-spill cup made by Nuby/Luv n' care.
-- The plastic mouth cover of a Disney pacifier.

Most companies whose items were found to contain phthalates or bisphenol A learned about the pending San Francisco ban through interviews with The Chronicle.

Among them was Walgreen Co., which has since begun to examine ways to comply with the ban. Officials at the company's Illinois headquarters said the chain is asking its vendors to identify products that do not comply with the San Francisco law.

Representatives for Prestige Brands in Irvington, N.Y., said the company would remove the teether with phthalates from San Francisco shelves and is working on finding an alternative.

After Random House officials learned of the test results on their baby bath books, they made plans to conduct their own tests. The company pledged to stop shipping books to San Francisco if it finds the products would violate the pending ban.

When notified of the chemicals in its products, Hasbro spokesman Gary Serby responded in an e-mail: "Hasbro does not agree with the science behind the ordinance, but will comply as of Dec. 1."
Nidia Tatalovich, a Disney representative, said all of the company's products meet state and federal compliance guidelines. She said that her company would examine the San Francisco law.

Shannon Jenest, spokeswoman for Philips Avent, which makes polycarbonate baby bottles, said, "We're working through the details right now. We're very concerned with those standards and will make sure that we adhere to those guidelines."

Munchkin, the company whose teething ring contained bisphenol A, didn't respond to repeated queries.

In the past three weeks, groups representing the chemical manufacturers, toymakers, retailers and San Francisco's toy stores, Citikids and Ambassador Toys, filed two separate lawsuits, arguing that the city doesn't have the authority to pass such a ban.

Some of the same trade groups -- the California Retailers Association, the California Grocers Association, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association and the American Chemistry Council -- successfully fought a bill this year in the state Legislature that would have enacted a ban similar to San Francisco's. The city agreed to delay enforcement of its ordinance until a Jan. 8 hearing at which the companies will seek a preliminary injunction. A hearing date hasn't been set for the second lawsuit, which was filed Thursday.

Yet even without an injunction, there are no penalties for companies that violate the ban. City leaders said they wanted to make sure all companies knew about the ban before issuing fines or taking other actions.

The San Francisco ordinance is certain to cause concern among parents who may not have been aware of the European ban or studies on chemicals commonly found in child products.

Mary Brune, a technical writer from Alameda, said she first started paying attention to the issue when she was nursing her baby last year and read about chemicals in breast milk. With two friends, she founded Making Our Milk Safe, or MOMS.

She scans Web sites to find toys made without plastics and tells friends about baby bottles made from glass, polyethylene, propylene and other materials considered safe. She stores food in glass. Last month she passed out leaflets near Albany's Target store, urging company officials to remove polyvinyl chloride (PVC) toys from their shelves.

"It's impossible to keep plastic toys out of children's mouth. They chew on things," Brune said. "So we as parents rely on the manufacturers of products to ensure their safety. If consumers demand safer products and businesses demand safer products from their suppliers, we'll be able to get these toxic products off our shelves."

The health effects

Scientists simply don't know how low or high levels of phthalates or bisphenol A will cause health problems in babies if they suck on a bottle or handle a doll containing those substances.
Studies on the chemicals are largely conducted with high-dose and low-dose experiments on animals, which over time help scientists determine the level of chemicals that may pose unacceptable risks.

Those sorts of strictly controlled animal experiments are what first showed that the pesticide chlordane could cause cancer and that industrial pollutants like dioxin could cause birth defects. Such studies were also cited when California named one phthalate a carcinogen in 1988 and two others as reproductive toxicants in 2005.

There is a dearth of long-term, epidemiological studies on children exposed to phthalates and bisphenol A. So scientists from groups like the American Chemistry Council say the fact that the chemicals are found in human bodies doesn't necessarily mean they cause health problems.
Yet scientists who study phthalates and bisphenol A say there is enough evidence to implicate some forms of the chemicals now.

New evidence about how bisphenol A affects lab animals and how it can leach out of items such as plastic bottles came out of 1999 research by Koji Arizono at Japan's Kumamoto University.

Arizono found that a used polycarbonate baby bottle can leach out bisphenol A at daily levels that damaged the brain and reproductive systems in lab animals. If a 9-pound baby drinks about a quart of liquid from the bottle a day, it can ingest 4 micrograms of bisphenol A.

"We're showing that amount is in the zone of danger, based on the animal studies,'' said University of Missouri researcher Frederick vom Saal, who said that the doses that have hurt lab animals were very close to what a baby would get from a baby bottle.

Vom Saal found that 148 published bisphenol A studies, all financed by government bodies, reported significant health effects, including altering the function of organs and reproductive systems in male and female animals...

Last year, researchers at the Tufts University School of Medicine exposed pregnant lab rodents to levels of bisphenol A 2,000 times lower than the EPA's 18-year-old safety guideline, which the agency admits is outdated. That old guideline suggests it would be safe, for example, for a 9-pound baby to swallow about 200 milligrams (or 200,000 micrograms) of the chemical a day.
But rodents given just a very small fraction of that amount showed changes in mammary glands. In humans, such changes are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Other researchers showed that exposure of newborn rats to bisphenol A causes early stages of prostate cancer.

Testifying before the state Legislature this year on the failed bill, one of the EPA's top phthalate researchers, Earl Gray, said studies on pregnant rodents found in their male offspring such effects as disrupted testosterone production and low sperm counts, malformation of sexual organs, and disruption of the endocrine system.

There's no reason to believe that the same effects wouldn't be the same in humans as well, Gray said.

And last year, for the first time, scientists showed that pregnant women who had higher concentrations of some phthalates in their urine were more likely to later give birth to sons with genitals that showed changes similar to those seen in exposed rodents.

It appeared that human infants, like rodents, were less completely masculinized. Some of the changes, including incompletely descended testes, were similar to those included in the "phthalate syndrome" seen in lab rodents that received high doses of phthalates, University of Rochester researchers found. Later in the lab animals' lives, those genital changes were associated with lower sperm count, decreased fertility and, in some, testicular tumors.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which works closely with industry, has developed a voluntary agreement to eliminate the phthalate DEHP in some baby products.

In 1983, the commission determined that substantial exposure to DEHP could put children at risk of cancer. The agency didn't issue a regulation, but instead reached an agreement with the Toy Industry Association to keep DEHP out of pacifiers, rattles and teethers. The agreement leaves unregulated all other toys that babies put in their mouths.

Chronicle tests found that all the polyvinyl chloride toys contained DEHP, including a teether...

Phthalates

Uses: Softens polyvinyl chloride products such as toys, raincoats, shower curtains and medical tubing. Found in upholstery, detergents, oils and cosmetics.

Health effects: Lab animal studies show some phthalates interfere with hormonal systems, disrupt testosterone production and cause malformed sex organs. The DEHP form is a carcinogen and a reproductive toxicant. Phthalates shed or leach from products.

Regulation: The San Francisco law prohibits the manufacture, sale or distribution of toys and child care products if they contain the phthalates DEHP, DBP or BBP in levels higher than 0.1 percent.

Products for children younger than 3 are banned if they contain DINP, DIDP or DnOP in levels exceeding 0.1 percent.

Production: Made by BASF Corp., Eastman Chemical Co., ExxonMobil Chemical Co. and Ferro Corp.

Bisphenol A

Uses: Acts as building block in hard, clear polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, water bottles and containers. Found in liners inside food and drink cans, electronic equipment and spray-on flame retardants.

Health effects: Lab animal studies show that at low levels, bisphenol A can alter the function of the thyroid gland, brain, pancreas and prostate gland. It leaches out of products under normal use. It is found in humans, especially in placental and fetal tissue.

Regulation: San Francisco law prohibits manufacture, sale or distribution of a toy or child care article intended for use by a child younger than 3 if it contains bisphenol A.

Production: Made by Dow Chemical, Bayer, General Electric Plastics, Sunoco Chemicals and Hexion Specialty Chemicals.

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"Toxic Toys" by Mark Schapiro The Nation [11/5/07]
(thenation.com/doc/20071105/schapiro)

This article is adapted from Mark Schapiro's new book Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power (Chelsea Green).

Into the playrooms of children has come the unsettling news: those little red trains and other neat miniatures of the adult world may be coated in paint containing illegally high levels of lead, posing myriad risks to a child's neurological development. After that discovery prompted a mass recall this past summer, parents will never look at Thomas the Tank Engine the same way again. But the uproar over banned substances and rogue Chinese toy manufacturers has overshadowed an even more troubling issue: the toxins in toys that are perfectly legal. The United States remains one of the few developed countries to permit the import of plastic toys made with polyvinyl chloride additives called phthalates (pronounced tha-lates), which help make toys soft and pliable enough to be twisted or sucked yet durable enough to survive a 1-year-old's grip. A mounting body of scientific evidence suggests that phthalates impede the production of testosterone and disrupt the sexual development of infant boys.

That disturbing claim certainly caught my attention as I sat in a hearing room in the California Capitol January 10, 2006, and watched two of America's leading experts on the physiological effects of chemical exposure testify before the health committee of the State Assembly. Such hearings are normally dry affairs, but the scientists' allegations that children were gnawing and sucking on toy animals and other doodads that decrease production of the male sexual hormone gave the testimony a certain urgency. The experts had been called in by Democratic Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, author of a bill to ban phthalates from children's toys; the bill had been met by powerful opposition from the toy and plastics industries.

In the average home, phthalates are everywhere--in shower curtains, shampoo bottles, raincoats and perfumes (to aid adherence to the skin). In hospitals, they're in medical tubing. A component of that distinct "new car smell" comes from phthalates in the plastic dashboard. The dash becomes more brittle as the car ages because phthalates are slowly migrating into the car's interior. As they sweat out of the plastic, residue enters the air or, through direct contact, the skin.

For infants, the most vulnerable population, exposure takes multiple routes: phthalates enter the womb through the umbilical cord or later through mother's breast milk. Exposure can come from dust in the air, from plasticized wall coverings or flooring and from decaying resins in plastic containers. It can also come from sucking on plastic toys. Plastic rubber duckies floating in many American bathtubs are squishy because of phthalates. Infants, according to the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety, an affiliate of the World Health Organization, have far less capacity for detoxifying chemicals than do adults, and with toys they face all three points of a "risk triangle": "increased vulnerability" to a chemical's "toxic effects" and plenty of possibilities for exposure through "intimate contact."

Chan's bill also proposed a toy ban on Bisphenol A, but most of the scientists' attention that day was focused on a phthalate called Di(2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate, or DEHP, which when ingested can impede the production of LH, a hormone responsible for triggering cells in the testes to produce testosterone. In a baby boy, testosterone plays a major role in determining everything from gender-based behavior to sex drive to what his sperm count will be twenty years later.

Dr. Earl Gray, who has been studying the effect of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on rodents for seventeen years at the EPA's research facility in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, told the panel that sexual malformations may follow from below-normal LH and testosterone levels. Dr. Gray has found that rats fed phthalates during pregnancy gave birth to a high rate of male pups with incompletely descended testes and a rare condition known as hypospadias--an opening in the penis elsewhere than on the tip. Both are symptoms of low testosterone. Scientists, Dr. Gray said, were calling these deformities "phthalate syndrome," and they are increasingly concerned about a parallel syndrome in human infants. Declining sperm counts among US men and the rising incidence of conditions like hypospadias and testes cancer, Dr. Gray explained, are the possible outcome of early phthalate exposure. "The research," he said, "suggests more and more concern about phthalates."

Also testifying that day was Dr. Shanna Swan, director of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, in New York. Dr. Swan conducted a study, published in the June 2005 Environmental Health Perspectives, that sent shock waves through the medical community. Swan took urine samples from 134 pregnant women in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Columbia, Missouri, and tested them for phthalates. The results showed an apparent correlation between women who had higher phthalate levels in their urine and the fact that their male children, within thirteen months of birth, showed "reduced ano-genital distance (AGD)." That measurement of the distance between the anus and the scrotum is a means of distinguishing between male and female rodents and is a key indicator of testosterone levels. Dr. Gray has been seeing shorter AGDs in rats fed phthalates--now Dr. Swan was seeing it in humans.

Dr. Swan summarized this in layman's terms for the committee: "Wherever we've looked," she said, "human studies are consistent with rodent studies. Phthalates are making the ano-genital distance shorter, in a more feminine direction."

That was pretty strong language from two of America's most eminent specialists on the developing endocrine system. But representatives of the chemical and toy industries were also invited to testify. Dr. James Lamb, a former EPA reproductive biologist now working for the Weinberg Group, a consulting firm that lobbies on behalf of the chemical industry, asserted that the effects seen in animals from phthalate exposure were from quantities placed in their feed that far exceeded the amounts children would absorb from playing with or sucking on toys. "Phthalate syndrome," he said, "is a rat syndrome, not a human syndrome."

Joan Lawrence, vice president for standards and regulatory affairs of the Toy Industry Association (TIA), assured the panel, "If there was solid scientific evidence that these products were harmful, the toy industry would be the first to remove them." Lawrence and Lamb asked, Had scientists established a link between phthalates and sexual malformation beyond a shadow of a doubt? The answer, Gray and Swan conceded, was no. The links between infant phthalate exposure and the symptoms of endocrine disruption are highly suggestive, they said, but have yet to be definitively proven.

None of the advocates of Chan's proposed ban argued that the amount of phthalates to which an infant would be exposed by toys alone would be enough to trigger the spiral of dysfunction prompted by lower levels of testosterone. Nor could they say absolutely that phthalates were the cause of the troubles they were seeing. But removing phthalates from toys, the scientists told the panel, would make for one less contaminant amid multiple exposures to phthalates and other chemicals that are possible contributors to rising endocrine-related troubles, and sexual dysfunction levels, in American men.

That logic, in fact, had led the European Union to ban phthalates eight years before. The very different ways the battle over phthalates has unfolded in Europe and America reflect the vastly different approaches taken by the EU and US governments to protecting citizens from chemical hazards. Here, concern about a product's safety is not enough to justify regulation; irrefutable evidence of harmful effects--a scientific standard that is elusive at best--is required, as is a cost-benefit analysis weighing the "benefits" to society against the "costs" to industry of making the change. The EU, in marked contrast, operates according to the "precautionary principle." As Robert Donkers, who served as the EU's environment counselor in Washington until September, explained to me, "Unlike in the United States, we don't wait until we have 100 percent proof. Rather, if there's fear, scientific suspicions that [a chemical] could cause irreversible damage in the future, we don't want to wait. By the time it's proven, it could be much too late." This was the perspective of Assemblywoman Chan and the advocates of her bill; the risks of doing nothing, they argued, were far greater than the risks of doing something. But that argument would not immediately hold sway in Sacramento. After heavy lobbying by the industry, Chan's bill was defeated by one vote.

In the decade before the EU passed its ban in 1999, numerous studies on phthalates' effects on humans were published in European scientific journals. In the Netherlands, scientists asked men to chew on pieces of plastic children's toys, then tested their saliva and blood to see how easily phthalates pass into the human body; in Denmark scientists concluded that high levels of phthalates in breast milk contributed to lower levels of testosterone in male offspring in their first three months of life; and in Italy, doctors reported that phthalates could contribute to premature births. In 1998 the European Chemical Bureau, an arm of the European Commission that reviews research on chemical toxicity, affirmed that phthalates easily slough off products like plastic toys and recommended tighter exposure standards. Across Europe, parents expressed alarm: if these are really such powerful endocrine disrupters as scientists are suggesting, what are they doing in my son's crib? (Most concern, of course, has been focused on infant boys because of the concern about testosterone levels.)

Responding to mounting public fears, the EU issued a temporary ban in 1999 on the inclusion of six phthalates in children's "toys and teethers intended to be mouthed by children under three years of age." The ban was renewed yearly as scientists were encouraged to get to the heart of these concerns. The World Wildlife Fund took blood samples from members of the European Parliament in 2004 and detected DEHP in all thirty-nine of the MEPs tested. A year later the Parliament voted overwhelmingly to make the temporary ban permanent.

As of January three phthalates determined to be toxic to the reproductive system--DEHP and two others, DBP and BBP--were banned from "all toys and childcare articles." Three others deemed less dangerous--DINP, DIDP, and DNOP--are banned from toys, "if those articles can be put into the mouth by children." The bans are in place until 2010, when they will be put up for review or renewal depending on the results of research. Some EU countries, like Austria and Germany, imposed even tighter restrictions on phthalates, limiting their use in plastic food wrapping.

Many other countries are following the Europeans' lead--including Japan, Norway, Argentina and Mexico, which have banned DEHP and other phthalates from most infant toys, and others, like Canada, which have banned them in teethers and rattles. That leaves the United States as one of the few developed countries with no government limits on phthalates in toys aimed at young children.

What has been the effect of removing toys with phthalates from European playrooms? The shift in production practices failed to trigger the dire economic consequences the toy industry predicted during its annual negotiations with the EU. From 2002 to '04, European toy-industry sales grew by 5 percent, to nearly $20 billion annually, according to the trade group Toy Industries of Europe. Responding to the ban, European industry began developing alternatives.

A Danish company, Danisco, one of the world's largest manufacturers of food additives, introduced a phthalate alternative for toys and other products that has been approved for use in Europe and the United States. In January 2006, the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates participated in a conference, "Plasticisers 2006," tailored to encourage the industry to develop phthalate alternatives in response to "increasingly stringent" legislative demands and "environmental awareness among the general population." On the other side of the Atlantic, however, the US plastics industry, represented by the Vinyl Institute and the American Chemical Council, is continuing to fight legislative measures like the one proposed in California.

German chemical giant BASF shut down its European DEHP production after the EU ban in 2005. The company was formerly responsible for half the phthalate produced in Europe but "discontinued production of DEHP [in Europe] because the market has changed considerably over the last years," according to William Pagano, a BASF communications officer who responded to my questions via e-mail. Instead, BASF has a new and profitable plasticizer line called DINCH. Pagano said the company has spent "five million euros...for rigorous and extensive" safety testing of DINCH and that it has an "outstanding toxicological profile" for "sensitive applications...such as toys, food-contact materials, and medical applications." In the United States, however, the company continues to manufacture DEHP at two facilities, in Pittsburgh and Texas City, for many industrial and consumer uses on the US market. Likewise, in China, where most toy manufacturing takes place, toys are produced with phthalates for the US market but without them for the European market. Unlike in the recent scandals about lead paint in Thomas the Tank Engine toys, when Chinese companies ship phthalate-laden toys to America, they are simply abiding by US rules.

In Brussels several months before the California debate, I interviewed David Cadogan, a chemist who works as the senior scientist for the Confederation of European Chemical Industries, Europe's chemical-industry trade group. Before coming to the group, Cadogan spent two decades in the private sector, specializing in the manufacture of plastics, including many phthalates. Now, as a representative of his industry, he'd lobbied the EP against the phthalate ban. He's no fan of the precautionary principle. The EU's decision, Dr. Cadogan told me, was prompted by "politicians' desire to appear to be protecting their constituents from scientifically unproven risks." But he conceded that since the ban had taken effect, it's had little impact on European toy makers. "I suppose," he shrugged, "we've learned to live without [phthalates]."

Back in the States, Dr. Swan told me that what disturbs her most about the ongoing debate over phthalates in America is that substitutes are working. "We can switch. It's doable. Why put this into kids' bodies if we don't have to?"

Ironically, the EU's decision on phthalates was largely based on evidence generated by US scientists, much of it funded by their government. Dr. Gray, for example, works for the EPA. The EPA has also funded many other US scientists' research on phthalates, including that of Dr. Swan at the University of Rochester. The work of Swan, Gray and several other scientists at public research institutions across the country contributed to the EU's risk assessments of phthalates. Gray's and Swan's findings, along with those of European scientists, were an important part of the evidence used to support the EU's decision to limit infants' phthalate exposure.

The same data, however, have had an entirely different reception in the United States. The California hearing was the first of its kind in the country. Dr. Gray and Dr. Swan told me they had never presented their findings on phthalates to any US legislative body, on either the federal or state level. "Nobody's ever asked," said Dr. Swan.

Jurisdiction over phthalates in the United States is scattered: the EPA has responsibility for phthalates released into the environment; the FDA, for medical devices like IV tubes; the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health, for workplace exposure (there appear to be higher pancreatic cancer rates among phthalate workers). In each, US policy-makers are confronted with a powerful industry lobby that has largely succeeded in shaping a regulatory culture that imposes an obstacle course of cost-benefit analyses before acting.

"If you're a US regulator, it's hard to resist the culture of analysis paralysis," says Joel Tickner, a toxicologist at the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at UMass. "The more we think we don't know, the less the imperative to act."

The one body with jurisdiction over toys is the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). That government agency has been cut to 100 inspectors to monitor some 15,000 products--including those lead-painted toys from China.

In 1998 a petition was submitted to the commission by a coalition of environmental health groups--including National Environmental Trust, the Science and Environmental Health Network and Greenpeace--demanding a ban on polyvinyl chloride, which contains phthalates, in children's toys. The CPSC went on to review toxicity studies of DINP, a phthalate that's similar to DEHP, and then in 2003 conducted a study of children's interactions with plastic toys. The CPSC's Human Relevance Working Group, the team charged with assessing people's interactions with potentially dangerous products, installed cameras to monitor the "mouthing behavior" of 169 children in Houston and Chicago for two days. Another 491 children were observed by their parents, who took notes on their behavior. The frequency with which the children (55 percent boys, 45 percent girls) mouthed soft plastic toys spread liberally around them was registered and timed. This research, commonly called the Kids Suck study, showed that the average 1-year-old or younger spends seventy minutes a day sucking on plastic; forty-eight minutes for children between 1 and 2; thirty-seven minutes for children between 2 and 3--not enough time sucking, CPSC concluded, to deliver a "designated health risk" to children under 5.

"The dose makes the poison," CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson explained to me. "There were not enough phthalates released in those toys to pose any danger." Wolfson's comment revealed another key difference between European and American approaches to regulating chemical exposure. For phthalates, the United States looked at the time children may be exposed and determined it was not long enough for concern. The Europeans looked at phthalates' toxicity and decided to limit a potential route of exposure: toys.

Industry giants Mattel and Hasbro lobbied strenuously against EU regulation of phthalates. But when their campaign failed, both companies, which have significant European sales, announced they would abide by the European standards and remove phthalates from their worldwide production of young children's toys. Company members of the TIA, Joan Lawrence told me, agreed "voluntarily" to take DEHP and other phthalates out of rattles, pacifiers and teethers, products "intended to be used in the mouth." That agreement was announced in the 1980s, after concerns surfaced over phthalates' potential carcinogenicity. It did not, however, cover toys. The result can be seen in the playrooms of American children.

Environment California and the Public Interest Research Group teamed up to conduct chemical analyses of infant playthings, an exercise never performed by the US government. They bought teethers, bath books and toys and sent them to an EPA-certified chemical lab in Chicago for a breakdown. Fifteen of the eighteen products tested contained one or another of the six phthalates banned in the EU. A dozen infant products--including waterproof books and bath toys--contained measurable levels of DEHP. Nine of those contained multiple phthalates that toy makers have in the past decade said they would voluntarily remove. One teether--the Teething Ring, which induces infants to suck on it to get an oral-pain-relief gel--contained DEHP. Another, the Baby Gund Jungle Collection Teether, contained DBP, a phthalate classified by the EU as a reproductive toxin and carcinogen. Today, an American who wants phthalate-free toys can find them in the brands manufactured by multinationals. Those companies, according to Lawrence, account for about 40 percent of the US market. But for those who buy at discount stores or buy generic brands online--outlets that sell millions of baby products a year--if they're plastic and soft there's a good chance they contain phthalates.

Chan's bill in California was modeled explicitly on Europe's law; it was, commented Peter Price, a lobbyist for the bill, "the EU directive coming to Sacramento." The arguments were the same as had been pushed in Europe, and the key players were the same, too: Hasbro and Mattel had acceded to the demands of the EU in Europe, but as the largest members of the trade group were a part of the lobbying campaign launched to kill the effort to impose those same restrictions in California. The same held for the Weinberg Group--whose Brussels-based representatives had been the leading voice of US industry opposition to the EU's phthalate initiatives and which would now send James Lamb to represent them in Sacramento.

After Chan's bill went down, San Francisco took up her idea; it passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of toys and childcare articles containing phthalates likely to go into children's mouths from being sold within the city limits. That made San Francisco the first government in the country to limit children's exposure to phthalates. The sellers of toys containing the same six phthalates singled out by the EU would be subject to fines that could go to thousands of dollars. Shortly before the bill took effect, the San Francisco Chronicle tested samples of randomly purchased toys and discovered that at least three out of sixteen exceeded the city's new phthalate limits. Those included a teether, a doll and a rubber ducky sold at the drugstore chain Walgreens; the toys had thirteen times the allowable level of DEHP. The response of industry was not to remove toys from the market but to file a lawsuit: the TIA, along with the American Chemistry Council, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, retail industry groups and local toy stores, sued to block the implementation of the ordinance on the grounds that on such matters city law is pre-empted by state law. That challenge is pending.

Wilma Chan was ultimately termed out, but her idea had better luck this year. In September the Assembly passed a similar bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma of San Francisco, banning the use of phthalates in toys aimed at children under 3.

Advocates mounted a poignant public campaign, featuring the distribution of 1,000 phthalate-free rubber duckies on the day of the vote; a rally in Los Angeles featuring Harvey Karp, a well-regarded pediatrician; and a novel initiative led by teenage girls, affiliated with Teens for Safe Cosmetics, who called friends around the state to pressure their legislators by telling them that within a year they would be voters. "It was one of those rare examples of 17-year-old girls being charitable to the generations behind them," commented Rachel Gibson, staff attorney at Environment California. On October 14, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Ma's bill. When it goes into effect next year, Californians will be the only Americans who can shop knowing their toys contain no phthalates.

Meanwhile, phthalates in toys continues to be an issue in Europe. Since the EU's ban two years ago, there have been almost monthly confiscations of toys that violate the phthalate restrictions. Last July customs authorities in Lithuania ordered an immediate withdrawal from the market of plastic hippopotamuses and dolphins from China because of their DEHP levels; the month before, they had confiscated a shipment of soft plastic toy snakes. There is nothing, of course, to prevent those toxic toy animals from coming into the United States.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"A nationwide toxic toy ban likely to follow state lead"
by Tom Chorneau-- San Francisco Chronicle [10/16/07]
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/16/MNT0SQDJV.DTL
[excerpt here below]

(10-16) 04:00 PST Sacramento -- One day after California became the first state in the nation to ban toys containing toxic plastic softeners, supporters of the measure announced plans Monday to help at least nine other states - and perhaps even Congress - enact similar laws.

The movement to ban phthalates began in San Francisco last year when the city's Board of Supervisors imposed the nation's first restrictions on consumer products that contain the chemical compounds, which have been linked to hormone problems in laboratory animals.

On Sunday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the state law, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2009.
Lawmakers in Texas, Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington, Maine, Connecticut and New York are expected to introduce similar legislation in the coming months, according to environmental and breast cancer groups that sponsored the California measure.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wants to replicate the California prohibition nationally, although no time frame has been established, a spokesman for her office said Monday.

"We've been looking at this and saying, 'If we can get this passed in California, can we get the ball rolling in these other states?' " said Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California, a nonprofit advocacy group that was a key supporter of the state's phthalates ban. "It's the same pattern that we've seen with the global warming bills that have been passed."

Widely used in a variety of consumer products, phthalates are a family of chemicals most often used as a softener of plastic. Some critics say the chemicals can make up as much as half of the material used to make plastic toys and are also used to make baby teethers.

Researchers say regular contact with phthalates - chewing on plastic toys containing the chemicals, for example - may cause hormonal damage in young children and increase the chances of serious illness later in life.

Phthalates are banned in 14 nations and the European Union, and alternative materials are being used, according to marketing experts. McDonald's, for example, makes toys for its meal packages that have complied with Europe's ban on phthalates, and some hospitals in the United States are removing IV bags that contain the chemicals.

The California ban, authored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, will prohibit manufacturers from selling products containing phthalates in California in any item intended for use by children under the age of 3...

Ma said Monday that the governor's signing of her bill, AB1108, sends a clear message to Washington that states are ready to act.

"California continues to lead the nation in protecting children from dangerous chemicals and in safeguarding our environment," she said. "AB1108 sends a clear message to the Consumer Product Safety Commission that if the Bush administration won't act, states will."

Gretchen Lee, spokeswoman for the Breast Cancer Fund, said there is growing evidence linking phthalates to diseases including breast cancer - a good reason for other states to follow California's ban.

"Phthalates are a problem no matter where you live," she said. "We hope that AB1108 will serve as a model to other states so that they will have the same protections as Californian's children."

With the passage of the California law, it is unclear what is next for the San Francisco ordinance.
Although the ordinance was the first of its kind in the nation, officials said Monday that they expect the state law will take precedent.

San Francisco was in the process of testing child products for evidence of illegal levels of the chemicals, in order to provide a list of illegal products that could be given to retailers in the city...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Ban on Toxic Toys Becomes Law in San Francisco" [Environmental Health News 6/29/06]
http://www.environmentcalifornia.org/newsroom/environmental-health/environmental-health-news/ban-on-toxic-toys-becomes-law-in-san-francisco

For More Information:
Contact Rachel Gibson
(415) 622-0086 ext. 304

The Stop Toxic Toys bill, which bans two toxic chemicalsphthalates and bisphenol-Afrom childrens toys and feeding products, was signed into law by Mayor Gavin Newsom on Friday, June 16. The law takes effect on December 1, 2006.

Phthalates (pronounced thay-lates), often used in soft PVC plastic childrens toys, have been linked to reproductive birth defects, early onset of puberty, asthma, and reduced testosterone in boys. San Francisco is the first city in the United States to ban these chemicals in childrens products. The European Union and at least twelve countries have passed bans or restrictions on the use of phthalates in products for small children.

Bisphenol-A, a known hormone disruptor, is a common ingredient in hard plastic baby bottles and has been shown to leach out of the plastic, especially in older bottles. Even at very low doses it has been linked to obesity, early onset of puberty, behavioral problems, reduced sperm production, increased cancer cell growth, and impaired immune function. San Francisco is the first jurisdiction in the world to ban bisphenol-A in childrens products.

Many parents would be shocked to learn that the plastic baby bottle theyre giving their child could damage their health. When you look at the science behind these chemicals, there is no question that they ought to be banned from baby products, said Supervisor Fiona Ma, the author of the San Francisco bill.

We cannot allow toxic chemicals to be used in products for young children, especially those specifically designed to be put into their mouths, said Rachel Gibson, Staff Attorney for Environment California. Environment California was the sponsor of California legislationAB 319 (Chan)that would have imposed a statewide restriction on the use of phthalates and bisphenol-A in childrens toys and feeding products. The California legislature failed to take appropriate action this year when it had the opportunity to do so. We applaud San Francisco for taking this significant step to protect our most vulnerable population.

Supervisors Ma, Maxwell, Alioto-Pier, Ammiano, and McGoldrick co-authored the San Francisco Stop Toxic Toys bill. The bill passed its final reading on June 6 and was signed into law by Mayor Gavin Newsom on June 16.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"San Francisco: First U.S. City to Ban Toxic Toys" [Healthy Child Healthy World]
http://healthychild.org/blog/comments/san_francisco_first_us_city_to_ban_toxic_toys/

San Francisco takes the lead in helping to create a healthier environment for children. The Stop Toxic Toys bill, signed into law by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom last June, should have gone into effect December 1st, but will be delayed until a hearing is held in early January due to a coalition of businesses and chemical manufacturers who are suing to overturn the law. Despite the two lawsuits filed by various businesses, manufacturers of the chemicals, and the American Chemistry Council, companies affected by the ban said theyd comply if the ban were passed after the hearings in January 2007.

This groundbreaking law bans phthalates and bisphenol-A (two very toxic chemicals) from being used in childrens products. San Francisco leads the nation in taking preventive actions against developmental disruptors like these two chemicals linked to reproductive birth defects, early onset of puberty, asthma, reduced testosterone in boys, and hormone disruption. While a similar ban was passed in the European Union in July banning Phthalates in toys, San Francisco is the first city in the world to ban bisphenol-A in childrens products.

Quotes from Environmental Health Experts in the field:

"We don't want dry-cleaning solvents in our livers, lead in our brains or perchlorate in our thyroids. We certainly don't want endocrine disrupters in breast milk and umbilical cord blood. We need to be ratcheting down these levels in people by reducing the loading of these chemicals in the environment,''

-San Francisco Chronicle Article: Dr. Richard Jackson, a UC Berkeley professor who for a decade headed the Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[The FDA] confuse ignorance... we haven't tested... with safety. That is especially dangerous because many of the adverse effects caused in animals by these chemicals are or resemble conditions that have become much more common in people during the last 30 years, the decades during which both phthalates and bisphenol A have come into widespread use.

Reviews by the US government of the safety of bisphenol A were last conducted in 1988 (revised in 1993) based on data from the early 1980s. Almost all of the relevant animal studies have been published since 2000. Hence government reviews are grotesquely out of date and not reliable.

- Publication by Dr. Theo Colborn speaking to the importance of the San Francisco ban. Dr. Theo Colborn is a senior scientist with the World Wildlife Fund-US and one of the world's leading authorities on endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment.

"Protections for children from chemicals in toys are weak at best and dysfunctional at worst...Consumers would be astonished if they knew that federal laws regulating chemicals in children's toys all require balancing the benefits of protecting children with the costs to industry of implementing safer alternatives.''

- San Francisco Chronicle Article: Joel Tickner, a professor of environmental health at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He has served as a consultant to the forum and on national panels that advise the U.S. government on chemicals in the environment.

We're showing that amount is in the zone of danger, based on the animal studies,'' said University of Missouri researcher Frederick vom Saal, who said that the doses that have hurt lab animals were very close to what a baby would get from a baby bottle. Vom Saal found that 148 published bisphenol A studies, all financed by government bodies, reported significant health effects, including altering the function of organs and reproductive systems in male and female animals. That compares with 27 studies that found no evidence of harm. Thirteen of those studies were financed by chemical corporations.

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