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Last October 2007, California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma introduced legislation to ban the use of phthalates in California.  The law was passed by the California Legislature and will take effect in January 2009.  Essentially, the new law prohibits any product made for young children that contains more than one-tenth of one percent of phthalates from being made or sold in California. 

So what are phthalates?  Phthalates (pronounced “thay-lates”)are chemicals that are used in plastics to make them soft.  They are found in a wide variety of products including children’s toys, shower curtains, dashboards . . . you name it.  It is almost impossible to figure out what products contain phthalates however, as most manufactures do not divulge this information.    Four types of phthalates are known reproductive toxins

Various scientists and consumer organizations are opposed to the use of this chemical because they believe it can have serious adverse health effects on humans.  The European Union agreed and banned the use of the chemical. Industry representatives disagree and argue the amount in most products is so low that there is no health risk.  According to Mark Shapiro, who has written about the issue, the EU is sending its rejected toys to the United States, where they are sold to our children. 

An excellent overview of the issue is available by clicking on this link to an interview of Mark Shapiro by Terry Gross.  I would urge you to listen to the interview and draw your own conclusions.

 

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