Press Releases

New Study on Phthalates Underscores Need for Feinstein Measure to Ban Phthalates in Children’s Toys

- Feinstein measure endorsed by major consumer and environmental groups -

Washington, DC – A new study on the levels of phthalates in common plastic toys underscores the need for Congressional approval of legislation sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to ban these dangerous chemicals in children’s toys. The Feinstein measure is modeled after bans imposed by the European Union and California. 

The report released this week by the Washington Toxics Coalition, (, found high concentrations of phthalates in plastic children’s toys commonly available for purchase at major stores. Several of the toys studied would not be allowed to be sold in the European Union or in California, because of their high concentration of phthalate chemicals. 

          For example:

  • A plastic green ball purchased at Toys ‘R’ Us was made up of 47.5 percent of phthalates.
  • A squeeze toy “rubber ducky” purchased at Wal-Mart tested for more than 32 percent phthalate content.
  • A “Baby I’m Yours” doll purchased at Target was made up of 32.5 percent of phthalates.
  • A dinosaur figurine purchased at Wal-Mart tested for 28 percent phthalate content. 

“I was shocked to learn that these children’s toys have such high concentrations of phthalates. This is a serious health hazard for America’s youngsters,” Senator Feinstein said. “We don’t yet know the full health risks, but already it is clear that we need to move immediately to ban these chemicals in children’s toys. The European Union has done it, California has done it, and now Congress should do the same. It’s time to get these toys out of the hands and mouths of our infants and young children.”

Phthalates are chemicals added to common plastic products to make them soft and pliable. They are found in a variety of children’s toys and childcare products that are frequently put in a child’s mouth, such as teethers, rubber ducks, and soft bath books. They are also found in a number of common household items such as vinyl shower curtains and nail polish.

The bill sponsored by Senator Feinstein is modeled after the California and European Union bans. Specifically, the bill would: 

  • Ban toys and childcare products that have more than a trace amount (0.1 percent) of any one of six types of phthalates.
  • Require manufactures to use the safest possible alternative to phthalates. 

Representatives Darleen Hooley (D-Ore.), Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced identical companion legislation in the House. 

Similarly a number of major consumer and environmental groups have announced their endorsement of the Feinstein measure, including:  

  • Alaska Community Action on Toxics
  • Breast Cancer Action
  • Breast Cancer Fund
  • Center for Environmental Health
  • Center for Health, Environment and Justice
  • Citizens for a Healthy Bay
  • Clean Water Action Alliance of Massachusetts
  • Coalition for Clean Air
  • Commonweal
  • Environment California
  • Healthy Child Healthy World
  • Health Education and Resources
  • Healthy Building Network
  • Healthy Children Organizing Project
  • INND (Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders)
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  • Institute for Children's Environmental Health
  • MOMS (Making Our Milk Safe)
  • Minnesota PIRG
  • Olympic Environmental Council
  • Oregon Center for Environmental Health
  • Oregon Environmental Council
  • PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth & her Resources)
  • Safe Food and Fertilizer
  • Sources for Sustainable Communities
  • The Annie Appleseed Project
  • WashPIRG
  • Washington Toxics Coalition
  • WHEN (Women's Health & Environmental Network) 

Health Impacts of Phthalates 

Exposure to phthalates can cause severe long-term health effects. Phthalates interfere with the functioning of the hormone system, and can cause reproductive defects.  And young children are particularly vulnerable. 

For example: 

  • In 2005, a University of Rochester School of Medicine study found that pregnant women with high levels of phthalates in their urine were more likely to give birth to boys with birth defects in their reproductive systems.
  • Researchers at Harvard University School of Public Health have found that men with high phthalate levels have increased levels of damaged sperm DNA and lower sperm counts.
  • In 2003, researchers at the Perrino Hospital in Brindisi, Italy, linked phthalate exposure to premature birth.
  • In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found elevated levels of phthalates in children.