Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why Can't We Rely On Uncle Sam?

by Alix Clyburn
The Green Guide
November 28, 2007

As I write this, I'm listening to "Fresh Air" on NPR and learning that nearly every single thing in my life is leaking out questionable chemicals called phthalates (thay-lates).

My cosmetics, the dashboard of my car, nearly anything plastic . . . apparently these phthalates are in them all and slowly leak out into the atmosphere and will, I don't know, turn us into hermaphrodites?

The worst of it is not the phthalates in my mascara or my shampoo. It's in children's toys. My sons' toys are filled with phthalates. Apparently, studies have shown that these chemicals have an impact on the testosterone development in children. They call the plastics "hormone disrupters." Not good. Too much testosterone? Too little testosterone? Who cares? Either way, not so good.

Mark Schapiro is an investigative reporter who wrote a book about this called Exposed and was interviewed by Terry Gross. His book is excerpted in the article "Toxic Toys" on the website of The Nation.

In Europe, they have banned phthalates from children's toys. Those Eurokids still have lots of fun toys. The Chinese factories still make them, in fact. According to Schapiro, the Chinese factories literally make a phthalate-free version for Europe and a phthalate-laden version of the same toy for lucky American boys and girls. This is ludicrous. In October, California mandated that their toys be phthalate-free too. If Ahnold can make it happen, why can't the rest of us?

I don't even know that much about it, but a little bit of reading online can make you want to toss every toy in your house. Our host here, The Green Guide, has been talking about the dangers of phthalates since 1997, and more recently covered a CDC report that does not fill me with confidence. That said, the updated Toy Product Report is filled with better options. Maybe I should read more but when?? How are we parents supposed to stay on top of all of this, to protect our children from their own toys? When are we supposed to do that while we're also trying to actually care for our children, work and manage our own lives? If it's easy enough for moms and dads in Denmark and Spain to rely on their government to prevent these hormone disrupting chemicals from seeping into their babies' bodies, why can't we rely on Uncle Sam?

© The Green Guide 2007

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