, 2000

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JUNE 23, 1999  4:30 PM
National Environmental Trust
Industry-Sponsored Group That Supports The Use Of DDT Would Allow Questionable Chemical Back IN US Toys
WASHINGTON - 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 didn’t believe ACSH when it wanted DDT back on the shelves, and we don’t believe them now. This group has never met a chemical it didn’t like."

Members of ACSH’s 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 given substance."
-- ACSH Press Release, June 22, 1999

ACSH’s panel conducted no new science but came to its conclusions after a review of scientific literature and "risk assessments." The panel’s 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 children’s 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 America’s major toy makers and toy sellers, and several European countries – believe that when it comes to children’s health, we should err on the side of safety.


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