5 Potentially Harmful Chemicals Now Banned From Kids’ Products

Image courtesy of Mateus André

Almost a decade after the Consumer Product Safety Commission was ordered to study the potential health affects of phthalates — chemicals often used in plastic products for children — and make recommendations on what further steps should be taken, the agency has voted to approve a final rule that prohibits manufacturers from selling items that have more than a minimal level of five of these chemicals.

The CPSC voted 3-2 this morning on a final rule [PDF] that would ban children’s toys or child care items — like teething rings — that contain concentrations of more than 0.1% of diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), dinpentyl phthalate (DPENP), dinhexyl phthalate (DHEXP), or dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP).

These kinds of chemicals are usually used to soften plastic and make it more pliable. Exposure to these chemicals by children has been linked with health problems like hormone disruption and damage to reproductive development, among other serious issues.

Back in 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act [PDF] banned some specific phthalates. The law also required the CPSC to gather together a chronic hazard advisory panel (CHAP) to study the effects of these chemicals on children’s health, and to make recommendations on what additional steps the CPSC should take beyond the permanent bans that Congress instituted on other phthalates at the time.

The agency was required to issue a final rule after CHAP published its report on the matter, which it did [PDF] in July 2014. The CPSC issued a proposed rule in Dec. 2014, followed by long delays as industry trade groups pushed back.

In Dec. 2016, several groups — the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Justice Health Alliance, and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners — filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the agency to finalize its phthalates rule. That case was settled, and the CPSC agreed to take a final vote by today, and to send the rule to the Federal Register for publication within a week of the vote.

That brings us to today’s vote, which advocates are greeting with praise.

“This is a big victory for children’s health,” said Avinash Kar, Senior Attorney, NRDC. “These chemicals in children’s toys and child care articles are a known health risk. In banning them, CPSC is following the advice of its scientific experts and doing precisely what Congress directed the agency to do in a 2008 law it passed overwhelmingly.”

Our colleagues at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, also welcomed the news.

“Consumers should be able to trust that their kids’ toys and other products are free of toxic chemicals,” William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, said. “We applaud the CPSC for putting this rule in place to protect children from the health hazards of phthalates. This rule finally fulfills the intent of Congress, which voted nearly unanimously to require the CPSC to take action almost a decade ago.”