Los Angeles Times  [Printer-friendly version]
October 13, 2006


By Marla Cone

Although chemical bans overseas have prompted some manufacturers to
reformulate all their products worldwide, many toys and cosmetics are

Europe banned or restricted six phthalate compounds in toys. In beauty
products, Europe has eliminated 900 compounds, including two
phthalates, suspected of causing reproductive disorders, cancer or
genetic mutations.

The U.S. toy industry said seven years ago, when the European Union
first banned some phthalates, that it would voluntarily remove them
from products for babies and toddlers. But last year, 15 of 18 vinyl
bath toys, teethers that babies chew on and other toys purchased at
U.S. stores contained the chemicals, according to tests by the
activist organization U.S. Public Interest Research Group. One plastic
book labeled "phthalate free" contained phthalates.

Low levels of phthalates, used mostly to soften plastic, are in the
bodies of nearly all Americans tested. Animal studies and some human
research show that they block testosterone and cause reproductive
abnormalities in male newborns.

Federal officials have concluded that the low doses in toys and
cosmetics pose little risk. The Toy Industry Association does not
track the chemicals, saying "the choice to use phthalates in toys sold
in the United States is up to the individual manufacturer."

Mattel, which owns Fisher-Price, says all its products will comply
with the EU rules by the end of this year.

In cosmetics, some companies, including OPI Products, the largest
maker of manicurists' products, have kept nail polishes with the
phthalate DBP on U.S. shelves for two years after the EU's 2004 ban.
OPI this fall changed course and said it soon will be DBP-free to save
the cost of making two formulas.

Orly International, which sells nail lacquer in 66 countries, decided
to be "better safe than sorry" and immediately removed DBP from all
formulations, said marketing director Mia Jenner.

"If they remove it there, why shouldn't we remove it here?" she said.
"It's a no-brainer."
Section: Domestic News

Copyright 2006, Los Angeles Times