Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has set a precedence by passing legislation to prohibit the manufacturing, sale and distribution of vinyl toys and childcare products that contain phthalates designed for children under three, making California the first state in the country to ban these chemicals used in baby toys.
The phthalate ban was among 80 bills the governor signed Sunday to meet a midnight deadline. The ban will take effect on January 1, 2009. Several other states are expected to follow suit.
“California continues to lead the nation in protecting children from dangerous chemicals and in safeguarding our environment,” said Assemblymember Fiona Ma, the San Francisco Democrat who authored the bill. “AB 1108 sends a clear message to the Consumer Product Safety Commission that if the Bush administration won’t act, states will.”
Phthalates are chemicals added to plastic to make it soft and flexible. Among many other things, they are used in soft plastic toys and other baby products, such as teethers, bath books, and rubber ducks.
Because phthalates are not chemically bonded to the plastic, these toxic chemicals are easily released. When children suck on these products, phthalates can leach out and enter their bodies.
“When a child puts a phthalate-laden teether in her mouth, it?s like sucking on a toxic lollypop,” said Rachel Gibson, staff attorney for Environment California. Phthalates have been shown to interfere with the natural functioning of the hormone system. These toxic chemicals have been linked to reproductive problems, early onset of puberty, liver and thyroid damage, and testicular cancer.
North America is behind the rest of the world. Fourteen countries and the European Union have already banned or are phasing out the chemical.