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Phthalates in Children’s Toys Facing Stricter Regulations

Consumer Product Safety Commission proposes action on toxic chemicals

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Contact: Margie Kelly, 541.222.9699,

SAN FRANCISCO—Five months after a blue-ribbon scientific commission affirmed a federal ban on phthalates in children’s toys and child care articles should continue and expand to include additional phthalates, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted in favor of a proposed rule enacting stricter regulations on this ubiquitous family of toxic chemicals. The CPSC announced the recommendations to more strictly regulate phthalates would be put out for a public comment period for 75 days, after which they will make a final determination.

“This morning, the CPSC took a critical step in a process that will protect children from dangerous chemicals that disrupt hormones and harm reproductive health. We hope this is just the beginning of an overhaul of failed government policies that allow children’s toys and other products kids come in contact with every day to be made with chemicals linked to serious health problems,” said Nancy Buermeyer, senior policy strategist for the Breast Cancer Fund.

Phthalates are chemical substances used to make plastic toys like rubber ducks and bath books soft and flexible. When children play with toys or put them in their mouths, the phthalates can easily leach from toy to child. While the CHAP focused its review on male reproductive effects, phthalates have been linked to serious health concerns including early puberty in girls (a risk factor for breast cancer), birth defects, asthma, neurodevelopmental problems in newborns, fertility issues, obesity, reproductive harm in males, DNA damage to sperm, and decreased sperm counts.

The CPSC will now solicit public comment on a proposed rule based on a recommendation issued by the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) that the existing ban on four phthalates should continue and several other phthalates should be added to the banned list. Of particular importance is the recommendation to continue to ban the use of DINP, despite intense lobbying from the chemical industry, including ExxonMobil and the American Chemistry Council, which made it a priority to lift that ban.

“From a scientific perspective, there is no doubt that DINP should be permanently banned from toys and children’s products,” said Buermeyer. “The CPSC must not allow politics and lobbying dollars to outweigh the science showing that this dangerous chemical should not be allowed back into toys.”

Scientific evidence from a 2014 UC San Francisco study that found people’s exposure to DINP had increased dramatically – 150% - since it was provisionally banned in 2008; yet levels of some other banned phthalates declined.

However, the CHAP did not recommend that the bans on two of the temporarily banned phthalates, DnOP and DIDP, be continued, despite raising concern about potential health impacts including developmental toxicity and impacts on the liver and kidneys. The Breast Cancer Fund will urge the CPSC to the take the health protective path and maintain the bans on DnOP and DIDP. These chemicals have not been used in toys in the U.S. for almost 6 years; are banned from use in three states, California, Maine, and Vermont, and the European Union; and there is no reason to backtrack on that policy. The Breast Cancer Fund is also concerned that those state laws will be pre-empted if the CPSC acts to lift the bans.

The CPSC’s road to public comments on phthalates has been long, with action delayed by years. The July CHAP report was issued more than two years past its due date. By statute, the CPSC has 180 days from the July report release to issue a final rule. The Breast Cancer Fund supports moving the process forward to the public comment period and will submit comments calling for the CHAP recommendations to be implemented and for the bans of DnOP and DIDP to remain in place.

In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act permanently banned three phthalates from children’s toys: DEHP, DBP, and BPP; and interim ban was imposed on three additional phthalates: DINP, DIDP, and DnOP. The Breast Cancer Fund supports the CPSC adoption of the CHAP recommendations:

·         to leave in place the permanent ban on DEHP, DBP, and BBP;

·         shift the interim ban on DINP to a permanent ban; and expand the ban to include several phthalates not considered by the 2008 legislation, including DIBP, DPENP, DHEXP, and DCHP.

In addition, the Breast Cancer Fund urges the CPSC to follow the CHAP recommendation to ban phthalate, DIOP, at least on an interim basis, a recommendation that was not included in the proposed rule. Finally, the CHAP recommended that every phthalate reviewed undergo further toxicity testing, including the widely-used phthalate DEP, due to concerns about health impacts from exposures other than toys, including cosmetic and food-based exposures.

*Full Chemical Names: DEHP - di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate; DnBP - dibutyl phthalate (same as di-n-butyl); BBzP - benzyl butyl phthalate; DINP - diisononyl phthalate; DIDP – diisodecyl phthalate; DnOP - di-n-octyl phthalate; DIBP - diisobutyl phthalate; DPENP - di-n-pentyl phthalate;DHEXP - di-n-hexyl phthalate; DCHP - dicyclohexyl phthalate; DIOP - diisooctyl phthalate


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The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease. Find out more at: