[Pharmwaste] Hidden Hazards - Phthalates --An I-Team 8 Special Investigation

DeBiasi,Deborah dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Tue May 22 15:30:33 EDT 2007


Hidden Hazards--An I-Team 8 Special Investigation

May 22, 2007 11:59 AM EDT 

By Karen Hensel
Produced by Loni Smith McKown
News 8 @ 11:00

INDIANAPOLIS - There are new concerns about chemicals hidden in consumer
products. These chemicals have the potential to cause serious health
problems and several countries have banned them, but the U.S. has not.

Nearly every American is exposed to these chemicals. It is especially
troubling for millions of women of child-bearing age and their children.
Phthalates are everywhere and they are harmful to our health. So why
have most of us never heard of them?

Phthalates are a group of chemicals that make plastics flexible, lotions
and lipsticks creamy and dollies' skin feel soft and real. 

"It's scary, really scary. Her playroom's full of them, I'm sure," said
mother Annie Fisher.

One kind of phthalate is known to cause cancer, kidney and liver damage
and reproductive problems. Others interfere with hormones and can cause
obesity, diabetes, allergies and asthma. 

But it seems impossible to avoid phthalates. They are in hairspray,
shampoo and nail polish. They are in our homes and can leach out from
vinyl floors, PVC pipes, even shower curtains and clear plastic wrap
when used in the microwave and from plastic water bottles left in a hot

Phthalates are even in children's toys. I-Team 8 wanted to find out
which toys, so we boxed up a variety of toys and other children's
products made of PVC plastic and sent it off for testing. An IUPUI
chemistry professor found the cancer-causing phthalate in a vinyl
raincoat and a fashion doll.

He found other phthalates in a Happy Meal and a vinyl photo album. Tests
by others have found phthalates in teething rings, baby dolls and rubber
duckies. Babies put toys in their mouths, suck and chew on them and that
causes the phthalates to leach out of the toy and into the baby.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asked companies, including
Mattel and Playskool, to voluntarily remove phthalates from teethers,
bath toys and squeeze toys. But even one year later, toy companies chose
not to comply, removing phthalates only from teethers.

"Sounds like somebody needs to lobby Congress," Fisher said.

I-Team 8 took the issue to Washington to the chairman of the Committee
on Oversight and Government reform, the top investigator in Congress.
Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California plans to reintroduce
the Kids Safety Chemical Act, which died in the last Congress.

"This law would try to recognize that our children are more vulnerable
to chemicals that can cause harm, toxic chemicals," said Waxman.

Waxman said the "Toxic Substances Act" already on the books is not
working. He wants chemicals with the greatest potential for harm tested
for safety before they end up in children's products. But there is
resistance to that.

"The chemical industry would like less regulation," Waxman said.

"If the risk is real, then I'd say we need to get on the "ban wagon,"
said mother Julia Blank.

Dr. Anila Jacob is a senior scientist with the Environmental Working
Group in Washington.

"We know through our testing of babies, adults, that people carry
hundreds of chemicals in them. And we think that personal care products
are a major source of these chemicals," Jacob said.

Swapan Ghosh, a cancer researcher at Indiana State University, has been
studying phthalates for more than 20 years.

"Phthalates are actually a pretty reactive and pretty toxic substance,"
he said.

His most recent research on mice finds a link between phthalates and
Lupus and it is getting national attention from Johns Hopkins and the
FDA. When mice predisposed toward Lupus were injected with phthalates,
more of them got Lupus, got it sooner and died sooner. 

Women wear makeup and use a range of beauty products every day. Women
also are five times more likely than men to get Lupus. While the link
between phthalates and Lupus is not yet definitive, it is yet another
indication of potential harm. 

The Toy Industry Association insists phthalates are safe and so does the
chemical industry. Both dismiss animal studies that link phthalates with
health problems. 

"If compounds cause disease in mice and rats, I mean, sometimes that can
translate over into humans. Sometimes it doesn't. But, at the same time,
do you want to take the chance?" asked mother Claire O'Neal.

Twenty-five countries in the European Union ban  the most harmful
phthalates. If other nations have banned the chemicals, why not the
United States?

Tomorrow I-Team 8 uncovers what is in canned foods in your pantry right
now, plus a major lawsuit against some of this country's top baby bottle

Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email:   dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address:  www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program
Mail:          P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA  23218 (NEW!)
Location:  629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA  23219
PH:         804-698-4028
FAX:      804-698-4032

More information about the Pharmwaste mailing list