Phthalates: Banned in Mexico, OK in Texas?

Today’s Dallas Morning News editorializes about banning phthalates, (pronounced THAL-ates), a chemical made from petroleum that makes plastics bendable and has already been banned in Europe, California, Washington, and even Mexico. Among the top products that use phthalates in their plastics? Children’s toys. As a father of two children under the age of 3 whose toys invariably end up in their mouths, whether these post a health risk is of obvious concern to me.

Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to reform the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees product safety and consumer protection, but the Senate’s version included a phtalate ban- the House’s version did not. Now, while in the conference committee designed to reconcile the two versions of the bill, special interests are attempting to keep the phthalate ban out of the final bill.

The Dallas editorial spotlights the opinion of Rep. Joe Barton (R-6th District), the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in regards to phthalates and the bill to reform the CPSC. His opinions are the same as phthalate manufacturer Exxon-Mobil: that they pose no risk (and I’m sure there’s no other reason that he agrees with them other than that their arguments are convincing).

Actually, as the Dallas editorial points out, one of the problems with the phthalate research is that it is not entirely convincing, or at least as convincing or has as much consensus as the evidence for, say, global warming. However, if it’s convincing enough for Mexico, and a phthalate ban in California has not hurt the state in any discernible way, it seems like the way forward is fairly clear.

We can all contact our members of Congress and call their local office and thank them for voting for the original Consumer Product Safety Commission reform bill (every Texas member voted either Yes or was not present), but remind them that the Senate version had a phthalate ban that is not in the House version. You can tell them you support inserting a phthalate ban in the conference bill. Representatives who really need to hear our support include the following members who sit on the Energy and Commerce Committee:

  • Gene Green (D-Houston)
  • Charlie Gonzales (D-San Antonio)
  • Michael Burgess (R-Denton)

For more information on phthalates, toy safety, and the CPSC, visit our friends at US PIRG and watch their video about why we need to beef up the agency. Until we get a bill through, do what I do– check to see if your kids’ toys are phthalate free, buy phthalate-free products, and if not, keep them away from their mouths!!!!!