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Consumer Protection
Some Wins, Some Losses

excerpted from Pure Facts
Dec., 1999 / Jan., 2000, Vol.24, No.01, Page 6

Working for the benefit of the public, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Council has asked toymakers to find a replacement for the chemicals called "phthalates" (pronounced tha-lates) that are added to plastic toys. Phthalates soften plastics, enabling them to be flexible, and are used in teethers and children's toys, as well as medical devices. The recommendation came after European research suggested that small amounts of the plastic can get into the bloodstream and may pose a serious health threat.

Eight European countries have taken action to ban or regulate the use of phthalates in toys. An international coalition of health care workers, advocacy groups and environmentalists has opposed the continued use of the plasticizer.

Long-time Feingold members will not be surprised to learn that the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has strenuously defended the use of phthalates. Funded by major industries, the ACSH has long been an outspoken critic of the Feingold Program. Its president, Elizabeth Whelan, states, "Consumers can be confident that vinyl medical devices and toys are safe."

In December the world's largest toymaker, Mattel, announced that it would seek alternative chemicals to use in their toys. They hope to find a biodegradable, non-petroleum replacement for the plastic additives.