Group That Supports The Use Of DDT Would Allow Questionable Chemical Back IN US
- June 23 - The National Environmental Trust (NET) cautioned the American public
today not to rely on the makers of chemicals for unbiased information about chemicals.
In the wake of a report released today by the American Council on Science and
Health (ACSH), an organization that accepts 76 percent of its funding from corporations
including the largest makers of phthalates, NET advises concerned parents and
the public at large to await the findings of legitimate scientific investigations
on phthalates currently underway at the Centers for Disease Control and the National
Academy of Sciences.
Responding to the uncertainty surrounding the safety of phthalates and to peer-reviewed
research that linked exposure to the substance to liver and kidney damage, in
December 1998 the Consumer Product Safety Commission suggested that parents dispose
of soft toys intended for the mouth that contain phthalates and asked the industry
to remove such toys from sale.
"To give parents assurances of safety when no new research has been conducted
and when government laboratories are looking at the matter is the height of irresponsibility,"
said Phil Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust. "We didnt
believe ACSH when it wanted DDT back on the shelves, and we dont believe
them now. This group has never met a chemical it didnt like."
Members of ACSHs 17-member panel include, among others, ACSH board members,
paid chemical industry consultants, former Chemical Manufacturers Association
employees, and frequent "expert witnesses" for the chemical industry. The panel
was headed by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
"Dr. Koop is not a toxicologist, nor is he an expert in risk management. Unfortunately,
the only information Dr. Koop likely received on phthalates was from a panel where
chemical manufacturers were over-represented," according to Clapp. "Had the panel
opened its deliberations to mainstream scientists, we think Dr. Koop might have
made different conclusions."
The ACSH panel agreed with the National Environmental Trust and the Consumer Product
Safety Commission in its admission there may be a risk to children from phthalates.
Based on this fact, however, while NET, the CPSC, and many mainstream scientists
believe it is best to err on the side of caution, the ACSH panel and its chemical
industry funders would have children continue to expose themselves to a potential
danger while further tests are undertaken. In their own words:
"When conducting a risk assessment, there are always uncertainties and assumptions;
therefore, it is impossible to state that there is no risk from exposure to a
-- ACSH Press Release, June 22, 1999
ACSHs panel conducted no new science but came to its conclusions after a
review of scientific literature and "risk assessments." The panels findings
were not subject to traditional peer-review, the scrutiny that is normally applied
to submissions to academic journals, such as Science, Nature, or Cell.
Approximately eight European countries have taken action to control the use of
DINP, the most common phthalate found in childrens toys. In November, Canada's
health department issued an advisory to parents directing them to throw away toys
meant for the mouth containing phthalates.
In the US, Toys R US removed toys containing phthalates that were intended for
sucking or chewing from their shelves three days after ABC's 20/20 reported on
phthalates last November. Shortly after, most major toy makers, including Mattel,
Disney, Gerber, Warner Brothers and Hasbro, among others, responded by phasing
phthalates out of such toys.
NET concedes that there is uncertainty as to the safety of phthalates, as does
the industry panel. However, NET along with Americas major toy makers
and toy sellers, and several European countries believe that when it comes
to childrens health, we should err on the side of safety.
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