The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the governmental agency in charge of making sure the products we purchase are safe. This agency is involved in recalling dangerous items, as well as banning certain materials found harmful to our health.
One such toxic substance banned by the CPSC are phthalates. These chemicals are used to soften plastic and make it flexible. They can be found in many children’s products from baby pacifiers to rubber duckies.
In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in 2008 banned certain types of phthalates from toys that enter children’s mouths: DEHP, DBP, or BBP, as well as “tentatively banned three others — DnOP, DiDP and DiNP”.
Section 108 of CPSIA called for the creation of the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) to
…study the effects on children’s health of all phthalates and phthalate alternatives as used in children’s toys and child care articles. The CHAP shall make recommendations to the Commission regarding any phthalates (or combinations of phthalates) in addition to those identified in section 108 of the CPSIA or phthalate alternatives that the panel determines should be declared banned hazardous substances.
In July of 2014, CHAP issued their final report on toxic phthalates in children’s products. That CPSC issued its final ruling based on this report at the end of last month. The comment period ends March 16, 2015. There will be a lot of pressure from the chemical lobby to change this ruling.
CHAP looked at the long-term effect phthalates had on the male reproductive system.
As the National Law Review states:
If finalized, CPSC’s proposed phthalates rule would be one of the first federal actions regulating the use of a chemical on the basis of cumulative risk.
This is huge and could have potential for Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency to take similar actions when regulating toxic substances. I can’t believe this would be the first time cumulative risk is considered!
For the last several years, EPA has been considering how to regulate phthalates on the basis of cumulative risk. The U.S. Senate also considered legislation that would give EPA a mandate to consider cumulative risks posed by exposure to certain chemicals. As a result, CPSC’s proposed rule could mark the beginning of an era in which federal regulators impose restrictions on the use of chemicals, and phthalates in particular, on the basis of risks posed by cumulative exposure.
DEHP, DBP, or BBP remain permanently banned. This new ruling does not affect them. The CHAP recommendations include lifting the temporary ban on two of the phthalates and permanently banning one. It also recommended four more phthalates be permanently banned. Just how many phthalates are there? Wikipedia lists 25 of the most common phthalates.
DINP Ban Made Permanent; DNOP and DIDP Bans Lifted
With regard to the phthalates that were subject to the CPSIA’s interim ban, CPSC adopted the CHAP’s recommendation to make permanent the ban on DINP. CPSC noted that “[a]lthough DINP is less potent than DEHP, or other active phthalates, the CHAP reasoned that DINP is antiandrogenic and contributes to the cumulative risk from phthalates.” 79 Fed. Reg. at 78329 (citing CHAP report at 95-99).
On the other hand, according to the CPSC’s rulemaking, DNOP and DIDP did “not appear to possess antiandrogenic potential,” and therefore their risks were not considered cumulative. The CHAP determined that the level of exposure would not be high enough to raise other potential toxicity concerns, and recommended that CPSC lift the ban on these two phthalates. The proposed rule reflects this recommendation.
Four Additional Phthalates Face Permanent Bans
Perhaps most significantly, the CHAP recommended a permanent ban on four additional phthalates with antiandrogenic effects: DIBP, DPENP DHEXP, and DCHP. CPSC’s proposed rule adopts this recommendation.
DIOP Has Uncertain Regulatory Future
The CHAP also evaluated DIOP and recommended an interim ban until more data is available. However, CPSC did not take any action with regard to the recommended interim ban on DIOP, noting that “the CPSIA did not provide for an interim prohibition as an option for” CPSC rulemaking. 79 Fed. Reg. at 78337.
No Action Recommended for Three Phthalates
Finally, the CHAP assessed DPHP, DMP, and DEP, which were not regulated by the CPSIA. The CHAP did not recommend that CPSC take any action with respect to these phthalates; however, it did encourage federal agencies to obtain additional information and monitor exposure to these chemicals.
Additionally, the permanent ban extends to all children’s toys, not just those that are intended for the mouth like pacifiers and teething toys.
In reviewing the CHAP’s report to the CPSC ON PHTHALATES AND PHTHALATE ALTERNATIVES from July 2014, here are some important facts to consider:
- Most humans are exposed to multiple phthalates. Studies in rats have shown that mixtures of multiple phthalates act in an additive fashion in causing effects associated with the phthalate syndrome. This opens the possibility of dealing with the issue of cumulative exposure to phthalates by adopting appropriate modeling approaches. Unfortunately, phthalate mixtures have not generally been studied with respect to other health effects.
- The phthalate syndrome in rats bears a resemblance to the “testicular dysgenesis syndrome” (TDS) in humans, which includes poor semen quality, testis cancer, cryptorchidism, and hypospadias, and which is hypothesized to have its origins during fetal life…Overall, the epidemiological literature suggests that phthalate exposure during gestation may contribute to reduced AGD and neurobehavioral effects in male infants or children. Other limited studies suggest that adult phthalate exposure may be associated with poor sperm quality.
Seven years after the passage of CPSIA, we may finally have the most dangerous phthalates removed from children’s products.