Global Processing

Congress wary of plastics used in toys, bottles

June 12, 2008
According to the Associated Press, chemicals used in baby bottles, toys and thousands of other household items are getting closer scrutiny from lawmakers amid concern they can cause developmental problems in children.

A House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee will meet to look at the government''s handling of phthalates, a group of chemicals used to soften plastic; and bisphenol A, which is used to make shatterproof containers.

Both types of chemicals have been used for over 50 years, but recent analysis by government scientists has raised new concern about their effects on infants.

In April, U.S. toxicology experts said there is "some concern" about bisphenol due to animal experiments that linked the chemical to changes in hormones and the brain, early puberty and precancerous growths in the prostate and breast.

Most Americans have traces of the chemical in their bodies because it leaches out of water bottles and food-can lining.

In response to the report, Canadian health authorities said they would consider banning bisphenol and Wal-Mart said it planned to rid its baby bottle selection of the chemical by early 2009.

Senate Democrats have introduced their own bill to ban use of the product from children''s toys and food products.

The American Chemical Council, which represents chemical makers, said the legislation would cause pointless panic and remove products from the market that have already been deemed safe.

More than six million pounds of bisphenol are produced in U.S. each year by manufacturers, including Dow Chemical and Bayer AG.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart also recently told its suppliers to reduce the amount of phthalates in the products it sells.

A Senate bill passed last year aimed at improving toy safety would ban phthalates in products for infants and young children. The House version does not address the chemical. But lawmakers are likely to discuss adding the measure at an upcoming hearing. Members of Congress have not yet met to sort out differences between the two bills.

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection will hear from the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health.

Also scheduled to testify are consumer advocates, who have long questioned the chemicals'' safety, and representatives from the chemical industry.