Washington has become the second state to ban certain phthalates in toys and child-care products. It joins California, which passed a phthalate ban in October that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2009.
The Washington law, passed by overwhelming votes in both chambers of the state Legislature, is more far-reaching than California's ban. It is expected to be signed into law March 19.
The ban on six types of phthalates applies to all toys, child-care products, cosmetics and jewelry for children under age 12. It goes into effect July 1, 2009. The California law applies to children under age 3 and is aimed at a variety of children's products, including baby books, rattles, plastic bath ducks and teething rings.
The Washington law limits the collective amount of phthalates to 1,000 parts per million and also bans the use of lead and cadmium above specified levels in toys and children's products.
In addition, it directs the state Department of Ecology to come up with an additional list of high-priority chemicals that could affect children's health, by January, and includes reporting requirements for manufacturers.
A phthalates ban passed in the European Union is narrower, restricted to mouthing toys that are about 2 inches or less on each side. Phthalates are plasticizers used to soften the PVC used to make such products.
Eight other states - Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota - have legislative proposals pending that are similar to the California ban.
``The Washington state legislation incorrectly states that phthalates have been shown to cause harm to children's health and the environment. No reliable scientific evidence has found phthalates to cause adverse human health effects,'' said Sharon Kneiss, Products Division vice president for the Arlington, Va.-based American Chemistry Council, in a statement.
Certain animal studies have shown some phthalates interfere with hormonal systems, disrupt testosterone production and cause malformed sex organs.
However, a 2003 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission study concluded few children are at risk from phthalates because the amount they ingest does not reach a harmful level.