Would you let your toddler play with a fragile glass vase? Would you let your baby chew on shards of hard plastic? Would you let your preschooler play catch in the backyard with a sharp kitchen knife? Of course not; what responsible parent would even consider such foolishness?
Yet, turning safe toys into a potential hazard is exactly what will happen if some so-called health and environmental advocates have their way.
In the name of protecting children, several Washington advocacy groups have pushed the scientifically-dubious conclusion that a type of chemical, called phthalates, used to soften plastic toys (think of that rubber ducky) are dangerous for children.
Specifically, these groups charge that a child absorbs phthalates into their bodies when they chew on soft plastic toys (soft only because they contain the chemical), and that this chemical is linked to reproductive problems. Unsurprisingly, these groups leave out an important fact: There is no conclusive evidence linking phthalates to health problems in children.
What does exist, however, is significant research exonerating this “dangerous” chemical. The Centers for Disease Control, the Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University School of Medicine, for example, have studied this issue and concluded that phthalates pose no danger to children.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, addressing reproductive issues found that animals treated with high doses of the very type of phthalates most commonly used in children’s toys resulted in no changes to the animals’ sexual organs. Notably, in that study, the animals were fed high doses of phthalates via feeding tubes inserted into their stomachs which delivered far higher doses of phthalates than a child ever would receive from chewing on a toy.
Yet, even in the face of these reassuring studies by reputable scientific bodies, the federal government is under significant pressure from these so-called health advocacy organizations to impose a ban on phthalates despite a dearth of acceptable replacements currently on the market.
So what does this potential loss of phthalates in toys mean for kids, parents, and toy companies?
For kids, the loss of phthalates in their toys might just mean more injuries as toys that are meant to be soft, malleable and chewable would suddenly become hard and brittle and perhaps most troubling, more breakable and therefore easier to swallow. Have these so-called child advocacy groups ever heard of the phrase “choking hazard”?
For parents, this newest set of regulations will mean added worry, less convenience and more dollars being spent on previously inexpensive toys as manufacturers pass the cost of unnecessarily reformulating their products on to the consumer.
For the toy industry, it means more burdensome regulations in an industry where small toy manufacturers are already struggling with a bad economy, as well as seemingly endless increases in the cost of fuel, labor, and raw materials.
Early this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) announced it would soon release a preliminary report on their recommendations for regulating phthalates. No doubt, this panel is made up of concerned individuals who have the massive responsibility of overseeing the safety of products put into the general market. They also face potential demonization from these advocacy organizations if they deem Phthalates to be safe for children’s toys.
One can only hope that members of CHAP will ignore the rhetoric and focus on the hard data that shows phthalates are not being absorbed at dangerous (or even significant) levels by children. One also hopes CHAP will consider the potential danger facing children if plastic toys are made without phthalates, which could make toys significantly more brittle and dangerously breakable.
While CHAP holds significant power over the future of the safety of my children’s toys, I know the real power lies with individual Americans—the parents who can demand this type of regulatory nonsense be stopped.
Parents must realize that the real danger to children does not lie in innocuous chemicals in toys, but in the toxic science that is increasingly being used to advance counter-productive left-wing agendas at the expense of our economy and families’ true interests.
Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.