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Lawmakers Get Serious About Playtime; Take Up Chemicals in Toys

August 1, 2008

Vermillion, SD – A University of South Dakota expert is applauding Congress for negotiating an agreement to ban a chemical used as a softener in consumer plastics, including vinyl, cosmetics, toys and other children's products. Phthalates have been linked to health problems in children, including developmental disorders, according to Dr. Barry Timms, professor of reproductive biology at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine.

"Children's brains are still developing. Their reproductive systems are still developing and they're very much influenced by hormones circulating around in the blood. If you interfere with that process, the consequences are that you can affect alteration in normal development. That's the theory behind what is known as the 'low-dose exposure level' to these compounds."

Timms, lead author of a study on the biological effects of chemicals on plastics, says the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies have been sending mixed signals to the public about the dangers of chemicals in consumer plastics.

"Just recently, the FDA stated that the use of plastic baby bottles could be considered safe. That goes in the face of the recommendation by the National Toxicology Program Advisory Council, which recently registered concern about the use of BPA because of its affect on prostate and mammary development. The public can be a little confused about these conflicting recommendations."

BPA is another ingredient found in some plastic products, which some groups believe causes cancer.

The industry says not all phthalates are dangerous, and that the chemicals have been more thoroughly tested than alternative substances. The ban was attached to a bill to increase funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission and improve testing standards.

David Law/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - SD