The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is being urged to make a temporary ban that keeps a class of chemicals known as phthalates out of toys permanent, due to the potential risks exposure to the plasticizers carries for children.
In a report (PDF) issued July 18, the agency’s Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) concluded that phthalate exposure can lead to reduced anogenital distance (AGD) in boys and other sexual developmental problems. As a result, the panel recommends that many iterations of the chemical should be permanently banned from children’s toys.
“Overall, the epidemiological literature suggests that phthalate exposure during gestation may contribute to reduced AGD and neurobehavioral effects in male infants or children,” the report states. “Other limited studies suggest that adult phthalate exposure may be associated with poor sperm quality.”
There are 14 different phthalates that were part of the review, as well as six alternative chemicals. Several have already been permanently banned, some were temporarily banned and others are not banned at all.
The CHAP recommends that the CPSC make those phthalates that have been temporarily banned become banned permanently, and that it continue to permanently ban those already permanently banned. However, the CHAP report noted that toys were a minor source of phthalate exposure. Most phthalate exposure comes from food, beverages and drugs, according to the report.
Phthalates are a class of industrial compounds commonly known as plasticizers. The chemicals are often used to make plastic more flexible or to help cosmetics slide on more smoothly.
In addition to toys, phthalates are found in food packaging, detergents, textiles, plastic tubing used in hospitals to deliver medications, the coatings on pills, including some aspirin, and many other products. They are known endocrine disruptors, which interfere with the natural way the body regulates and produces hormones. Studies have found phthalates may contribute to a slew of side effects, including birth defects, cancer, diabetes and infertility.
Research published in 2011 found phthalates interfere with the proper functioning of the thyroid and can result in a decrease in thyroid hormones by 10 percent following high exposure to the chemical.
A study published in February revealed that phthalates, commonly used to seal and contain food products, may leach into the food they package causing severe side effects. Because they are used in so many consumer products, any harmful effects could be widespread.
A study published in March, in the medical journal also found that phthalates could have negative effects on male fertility.