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Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the Protect Our Food From Phthalate Contamination Act to prevent harmful chemicals known as phthalates from contaminating our food supply.

Phthalate chemicals are used to make plastic products more pliable. Used in all types of commercial applications, they can be found throughout the food supply chain, including conveyor belts used during food production, plastic gloves worn to handle food, and containers and wrappings used for food packaging.

“Plastics containing phthalates that come in contact with our food can leach the harmful chemicals into what we eat, creating serious health problems for people of all ages,” said Senator Feinstein. “I’m particularly concerned about the effect on children and adolescents whose bodies are rapidly developing. They’re more likely to eat packaged or fast food, which have higher levels of phthalates. Our bill would reduce exposure to phthalate chemicals by requiring safer alternatives in anything that comes in contact with our food.”

This bill is part of Senator Feinstein’s ongoing effort to remove harmful phthalates from consumer products. In 2007, she authored the Children’s Chemical Risk Reduction Act to ban phthalates in toys and other children’s products. That provision was included in the broader Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that was signed into law by President Bush in 2008.

Scientific research has shown that phthalates interfere with the natural functions of the hormone system, which can cause health problems – particularly to the reproductive system.

Phthalates have also been linked to learning and behavior problems in children and insulin resistance in adolescents and adults. There have also been connections to respiratory and immune system issues in children, such as asthma and allergies.  Scientists found that individuals who regularly eat out had 30 percent higher phthalate levels in their bodies than those who ate at home. 

The Protect Our Food From Phthalate Contamination Act would ban phthalates from materials that touch food and ensure the safety of any substance used as a replacement. The bill also provides companies that use phthalates in their products two years to phase out these harmful chemicals and find safe alternatives.

Senator Feinstein’s bill has broad support from health advocacy organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the Environmental Working Group and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.