Press Releases

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today introduced the Preventing Harmful Exposure to Phthalates Act, a bill to prevent phthalates from contaminating the U.S. food supply. Representatives Ted Lieu and Katie Porter (both D-Calif.) will be leading companion legislation in the House.

Phthalates are harmful chemicals added to plastic products used throughout the food production process and can cause serious health problems. These chemicals have been found to leach into food through plastic products and equipment such as tubing, lid gaskets, food preparation gloves, conveyor belts and food packaging materials.

A recent report in the American Journal of Public Health showed that prenatal exposure to phthalates can have lasting consequences to children’s brain development and increase children’s risks for learning, attention and behavior disorders. Pregnant women’s exposure to phthalates has been shown to decrease fetal testosterone, as well as harm reproductive development in male babies.

The report also showed that, overall, women have higher exposure to phthalates found in personal care products than men, and Black and Latina women have higher exposure to certain phthalates compared to white women, independent of socioeconomic status.

“While the harm from phthalates is well-documented, it’s almost impossible for families to avoid exposure to these harmful chemicals. And many Americans aren’t even aware that it is happening. The fact that exposure to these toxic chemicals may come from multiple sources we come in contact with daily, including the very food we eat, should make banning them from U.S. products a national imperative,” said Senator Feinstein. “We already banned phthalates from toys and other children’s products. It’s time to remove them from food packaging and other products that threaten our health.”

“Americans deserve to have peace of mind that the food they eat and the products they purchase are safe from toxic substances,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must take decisive steps to prevent dangerous phthalates from reaching our food and packaging materials - especially for our children whose bodies are particularly susceptible to toxic chemicals. The Preventing Harmful Exposure to Phthalates Act would help protect the health of consumers by bettering our understanding of the scope and consequences of exposure to these chemicals and by creating clear standards for measurable phthalates in our food.”

“We know phthalates are toxic endocrine-disrupting chemicals that cause developmental and reproductive harm,” said Representative Lieu. “Every day, American families are exposed to multiple phthalates in their diets regardless of whether they eat at home or elsewhere. I’m pleased to introduce the Preventing Harmful Exposure to Phthalates Act with Senator Feinstein, Senator Gillibrand, and Congresswoman Porter. The time for action on this health risk to families, especially our children and underserved communities, is long overdue.”

“Parents have enough on their plates; they shouldn’t also have to worry that food is contaminated with toxins known to stunt children’s brain development,” said Representative Porter. “We’ve known for years how much damage phthalates can do, yet corporations are still allowed to use them to package and process food. Until the work is done, Rep. Lieu and I will continue our push to better protect California families from these toxins.”

Full text of the Preventing Harmful Exposure to Phthalates Act is available here.

The Preventing Harmful Exposure to Phthalates Act would ban phthalates from materials that touch food and ensure that any replacement substance is safe. The bill would also require a review of other products to determine whether they lead to phthalate exposure with consideration of whether communities of color are disproportionately exposed as well as the health effects of such exposure.

This is part of Senator Feinstein’s longstanding 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, which was signed into law in 2008.

The bill is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Earthjustice, Endocrine Society, Environmental Working Group, Healthy Babies Bright Futures and Project TENDR.