Plastics report for children's toy rule is flawed, scientists say

A group of scientists says the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is using a flawed report to determine whether to prohibit manufacturers from using certain plasticizers, known as phthalates, in children’s toys.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. They’ve been used in teethers, plastic toys, home furnishings, air fresheners, automobile interiors, cosmetics, medications and medical devices, to name a few.

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The report found that phthalates can cause abnormalities in the developing male reproductive tract and reduce fertility in males.

During a conference call Wednesday, the scientists said they have issues with the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) report on phthalates, including highly uncertain exposure estimates, a small sampling of chemicals evaluated, lack of information on tissue exposure to contaminants and a misrepresentation of how sensitive test rats are compared to humans. 

“For myself personally, I would say while I’m not weighing in on regulation or policy, I find a weak scientific basis for doing anything from this report,” Christopher Borgert, president and principal scientist at Applied Pharmacology & Toxicology Inc., said during a conference call coordinated by the American Chemistry Council on Wednesday. 

 

The CPSC is accepting public comment on the proposed rule, which would prohibit manufacturers from using diisononyl phthalate (DINP) regardless of whether the toy can be placed in a child’s mouth. The rule would also add di-n-pentyl phthalate (DPENP), di-n-hexyl phthalate (DHEXP), dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP) and diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP) to the list of prohibited phthalates.

The first three substances are not currently used in children’s products. Though the fourth, DIBP, has been found in some toys, the CPSC has said it’s not widely used.  

In an independent review of the CHAP report, Kathryn Clark, a principal with BEC Technologies Inc., said the CHAP report tests exposure to these plastics on pregnant rats to determine their health effects. But the rule will apply to toys that will be used by children, not pregnant women or fetuses.

“It is unclear how recommendations can be made with respect to children’s toys and child care articles when the toxicity endpoint is for non-users of those products,” she said.