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Enviro-Mich message from marybeth@ecocenter.org (Mary Beth Doyle)

Federal Study Finds Safety Data Lacking

Contact:        Mary Beth Doyle, Ecology Center, 734-663-2400 ext 108
                     Brian Imus, PIRGIM, 734-662-6597

Michigan-based Meijer Corporation agreed to remove soft vinyl teething
rings, rattles, and pacifiers from their store shelves.  The vinyl (or PVC
) toys contain a potentially harmful softener that can leach from the toys
when chewed.  Meijer joins a number of retailers who have made similar
commitments, including Kmart, Toys-R-Us, and Target.

Meijer's decision comes on the heels of a U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) report that found that critical questions remain about
the toxic hazards posed by the softener.  The additive is one of a category
of softeners called phthalates and is added to virtually every soft plastic
vinyl toy. The Commission also confirmed that the chemical can leach into
children's mouths.  The CPSC admitted that more study is needed, and urged
manufacturers to stop using the softener in toys likely to be chewed by
children under three.  The CPSC also concluded that the amounts of
plasticizers leaching will cause harm "in few if any children."

Although the Commission recommends that toy makers voluntarily stop making
toys with these chemicals, and suggests that parents of young children may
wish to dispose of them, the CPSC did not take the next step and recommend
that retailers remove those products containing the potentially toxic
softeners from their shelves.

"For the CPSC to tell concerned parents to dispose of these toys, yet allow
them to remain on toy store shelves is ludicrous, " said Mary Beth Doyle of
the Ecology Center and coordinator of the 35-member Michigan Environmental
Health Coalition. "It sends a mixed message to consumers. The CPSC is
saying that not enough is known about this chemical, but they are not
giving parents the necessary tools to avoid it."

Despite CPSC's lack of directive, a number of toy retailers have chosen to
pull soft vinyl teething rings and rattles from the shelves.  But there is
concern that these steps do not go far enough. "Babies don't discriminate
between a teething ring and their big brothers' vinyl ducky," said Brian
Imus, Campaign Director for PIRGIM. "If something is soft and chewy, it
goes in their mouths."

The Michigan Environmental Health Coalition is calling for all toys
containing the potentially toxic softener to be labeled, and those likely
to be chewed to be removed from store shelves.  U.S. toy companies
currently refuse to label or disclose the contents of toys and other
children's products.

Vinyl plastic requires the addition of more toxic additives than any other
major plastic on the market.  Fortunately, many safer materials exist,
including other plastics that do not require these toxic additives.

Concern about the potential toxicity of the softeners has led several
European countries, including Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, to ban
or restrict the use of vinyl in infant toys.  Canada's public health
agency, Health Canada, has issued an advisory instructing parents and
caregivers to dispose of vinyl toys for young children. Phthalates have
been shown to cause liver and kidney damage and cancer in laboratory

The Ecology Center is a 28 year old environmental advocacy organization
that works on pollution prevention and environmental health concerns.  The
Michigan Environmental Health Coalition is a 35-member coalition working to
protect public health by protecting the environment.


Mary Beth Doyle, MPH
Environmental Health Project
Ecology Center of Ann Arbor
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor MI 48104

734-663-2400 ext 108
734-663-2414 (fax)

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