Results from new testing released today by the Seattle-based Washington Toxics Coalition for the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition show high levels of phthalates, toxic compounds that have been linked to potential harmful health effects, in popular children’s toys.

On the heels of testing done late last year that found toxic metals such as cadmium and lead in toys made of PVC, the new testing for plasticizers known as phthalates shows that many common toys contain high levels of these toxic chemicals.

“Rubber Ducky isn’t so squeaky clean afterall,” said the report’s author, Erika Schreder, M.S., staff scientist at the Washington Toxics Coalition. Schreder continued, “It is very troubling that toys commonly mouthed by babies and children have high levels of chemicals that are linked to reproductive problems, especially abnormal development of the male reproductive system.  These results show the urgency of passage of the “Children’s Safe Products Act of 2008″ by the Washington state legislature this year to reduce the threat to our health from common everyday products.”

The report released today contains results from testing done on twenty toys commonly available at retailers including Fred Meyer, Toys “R” Us, Target, Kmart, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Bartell’s, and dollar stores.   Toys were screened for the presence of PVC using an XRF analyzer and then submitted for laboratory testing by STAT Analysis of Chicago to determine the presence and levels of 17 phthalates using gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy.  All toys tested could be used by young children, including those under age three.

Key findings

  • Nearly half of the toys tested contained phthalates.
  • Most of the toys testing positive for phthalates had high levels of the chemicals, including a rubber ducky from Fred Meyer, a green ball purchased at Toys “R” Us, Target-brand penguin and “Baby I’m Yours” doll, and a dinosaur figurine from Wal-Mart.
  • Some manufacturers may have phased out the use of phthalates. Toys testing free of phthalates included a doll by a European manufacturer as well as popular products by toy giant Mattel including Barbie, Ariel and Dora dolls, and Winnie-the-Pooh and Elmo squeeze toys.

The Children’s Safe Products Act, introduced in 2008 by Washington Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and Sen. Debbie Regala, would put Washington state on track to address the problems found in this study. It would take immediate action to ban lead, cadmium, and phthalates from toys, start the process of identifying other hazards in toys, and gives parents the information they need to make safer choices.

Decades of laboratory research have shown that phthalates can derail normal development of the male reproductive system, and studies in people are beginning to confirm the effects at current exposure levels. Because of concern over the reproductive impacts, the European Union and California both have already taken action to eliminate phthalates from toys.

For more information about the report’s findings, the Children’s Safe Products Act of 2008, or toxics in children, please visit toxicfreelegacy.org.

CONTACT: Kristin Hyde 206-491-0773, or Ivy Sager-Rosenthal 206-632-1545 x.122 or cell 206-854-7623

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