Claiming that they "threaten the health and safety of our children at critical stages of their development," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law banning the use of phthalates in toys designed for children under the age of 3, according to the Los Angeles Times.
An industry Web site created by the American Chemistry Council that denies any health risk from the toys, acknowledges that the chemical is pervasive in modern toys:
Many of today's toys are made of flexible plastic such as vinyl. From dolls to rubber duckies, a popular choice is vinyl made flexible by the addition of a phthalate plasticizer during fabrication of the material. Flexible vinyl is durable and can endure years of hard play without losing its color, its flexibility or its fun. It is easily cleaned and is low in cost. Years after the kids have outgrown their toys, and after many non-durable toys have broken, become useless or just a hazard, the rubber duckie and its companions can be taken from storage to be enjoyed by the grandkids.Some research in lab animals has linked phthalate exposure to reproductive and development problems. Phthalates are among those man-made chemicals that are believed to mimic hormones, disrupting the body's intricate chemical messenger system.
Phthalates aren't found only in toys, but also a variety of products that have soft plastic components, and also in certain aerosols and liquids, including some hair sprays.
While some toys and other products may be labeled, "phthalate-free," others may contain phthalates without including them in the ingredient list. California's rule could influence the toy industry outside of the state; because it's market is so big -- Schwarzenegger is fond of calling it the "nation-state of California" -- businesses that alter production lines are likely to sell the revamped products in other states.
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