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Environment News Service (ENS)

Canada Limits Toxic Softeners in Plastic Baby Toys


Chewing and sucking on soft plastic releases phthalates into saliva. (Photo by oklagirl)

OTTAWA, Ontario - Canada will
restrict six toxic chemicals used to soften vinyl plastics in order to
limit the exposure of infants and children to the chemicals, Health
Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Tuesday.

The new regulations, to be implemented in June, will ban toys and child
care products that contain greater than allowable concentrations of the
six phthlates, a family of chemicals used to soften polyvinyl chloride,
or PVC.

"Phthalates may adversely affect reproduction and development," Health
Canada said in a fact sheet accompanying the government's decision.

"Today, we are acting to make the toys and products that young Canadians
use even safer," said Aglukkaq. "New regulations will ensure products
that are imported, sold or advertised in Canada do not present a risk of
phthalate exposure to children and infants."

The mere presence of phthalates in soft vinyl toys does not equate to a
health risk, Health Canada says, adding that touching or licking soft
vinyl does not constitute a health risk.

But young children often put teething rings and soft vinyl toys into
their mouths and chew on them, releasing the phthalates in the soft
plastic into their saliva.

"It is the amount of phthalates that leach out of the soft vinyl and
migrate into the body that can be harmful," Health Canada says.
"Phthalates leach out of soft vinyl during periods of sustained mouthing
action (sucking and chewing) that occurs on a daily basis, and migrate
into the body through the saliva."

"I applaud the government's actions to limit the presence of this
chemical in children's products," said Rick Smith, executive director of
the nonprofit Environmental Defence Canada, which advocates for
regulations to limit toxic chemicals.

"Canada's phthalates regulations are now aligned with measures taken in
the United States and the European Union and will ensure our children
receive the same high level of protection," said Smith.

In the European Union the concentrations of some phthalates has been
restricted to 0.1 percent for use in children's toys since 1999. In the
United States, a similar restriction was enacted as part of the Consumer
Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

Canada's new regulations also use the 0.1 percent standard to limit six
chemicals - di 2-ethylhexl phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP),
benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl
phthalate (DIDP) and di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP).

Since 1998, phthalates have voluntarily not been used by Canadian
industry in soft vinyl pacifiers, teethers, rattles, baby bottle nipples
and other products intended to be mouthed by children and infants.


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Even so, Health Canada's own market survey conducted in 2008 found the
widespread presence of phthalates in PVC toys and other products for
young children.

According to the test results released to Postmedia News under
access-to-information legislation, three-quarters (54 of 72) of soft
plastic toys and other items for young children contained up to 39.9
percent by weight of PVC.

Health Canada says it conducted the tests to "understand what
manufacturers are using instead of phthalates," according to an internal
summary of the test results, said Sara Schmidt of Postmedia News.

Many environmentalists want the Canadian government to do a great deal
more to control phthalates and other toxic chemicals in everyday
consumer products.

A petition
filed Thursday by the David Suzuki Foundation and Reseau des femmes en
environement asks why Canada is not enforcing a prohibition on
estrogen-mimicking, hormone-disrupting chemicals in personal care
products like shampoos, lotions, deodorants and makeup. Estrogens are
the primary female sex hormones.

"Canada's Cosmetic Regulations are clear - products that contain
estrogenic substances should not be allowed on the shelf," said Lisa
Gue, researcher with the David Suzuki Foundation. "So what are these
chemicals doing in our body products?"

The petition points out that although Canada's Cosmetics Regulations
prohibit the sale of any cosmetic that contains "an estrogenic
substance," parabens, siloxanes, phthalates and BHA are common
ingredients in cosmetics. All four show evidence of estrogenic activity
and have been classified by the European Union as suspected
endocrine-disrupting substances.

The petition asks what action Health Canada is taking against
manufacturers or importers of cosmetics containing these and other
estrogen-mimicking endocrine disrupters.

"There is a growing body of scientific evidence linking exposure to
endocrine-disrupting chemicals and adverse effects on wildlife and human
health," the petition states. These chemicals have been linked to
health effects, ranging from declining sperm counts and increased
incidences of male genital malformations, to increased incidences of
certain types of cancer.

The petition asks seven questions of Canada's Commissioner of the
Environment and Sustainable Development Scott Vaughan. The government
will have 120 days to respond.

"Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are ubiquitous and it makes sense to
minimize unnecessary exposure," said Gue. "Health Canada has
acknowledged this in recent decisions to ban Bisphenol-A in baby bottles
and six types of phthalates in soft vinyl toys. We hope that our
petition will spur the government to start enforcing the regulatory
prohibition on estrogenic substances in cosmetics."

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