Four years after pushing the toy industry to remove a controversial phthalate from PVC toys, a federal agency could be reversing course and saying there is no risk to children from the chemical.
A Consumer Product Safety Commission staff report released Sept. 24 concludes the agency should not ban PVC toys or issue an advisory on health risks from soft vinyl toys, as some environmental groups had urged.
That stance differs from the agency's position in late 1998, when CPSC said there was enough uncertainty about health effects from diisononyl phthalate, used as a softener in PVC toys, to warrant removing it from teethers, rattles and pacifiers. CPSC said then it could find no specific evidence of harm, but manufacturers voluntarily removed DINP.
After several years of additional study, the agency's report now concludes that children are exposed to much less DINP than previously thought, even less than a 2001 CPSC scientific study estimated. Phthalates have been linked to liver damage and other health problems.
CPSC spokesman Ken Giles said he could not address whether CPSC made a mistake in 1998, but said the agency has done a lot of studies since. A key focus of that research was how much time children mouthed the toys each day. CPSC's 2001 scientific study expressed concern about children who mouth toys more than 75 minutes a day, but the agency said its research found it is very unlikely that children mouth them that long.
The phthalates industry welcomed the decision, which it said ``should put to rest the scare stories about DINP in children's toys.''
``It's time for the activists to stop scaring moms and dads and to respect the overwhelming body of evidence supporting the continued use of the PVC-DINP combination,'' the Phthalate Esters Panel said in a news release.
The panel is part of the American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va.
Greenpeace said the commission mistakenly is looking at DINP in isolation, not as part of broader phthalate exposure.
A Greenpeace spokesman said, for example, that the Food and Drug Administration has raised concerns about some exposure to another phthalate, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, used in medical products.
DEHP was used in teethers and chew toys until the mid-1980s, when similar concerns prompted the toy industry to remove it and replace it with DINP.
The commission is scheduled to be briefed by the staff Oct. 24 and is expected to make a decision soon after.