Recent Speeches

MRS. FEINSTEIN:  Mr. President, I rise to offer an amendment to protect children from dangerous chemicals called phthalates. 

This is my Communications Director’s young son. He’s about eight months old in this picture and he’s sucking on his favorite book.

This is what babies do – they put everything in their mouths.

The problem is, this toy, a book called “Hello Bee, Hello Me,” is loaded with phthalates.

Phthalates all too often are found in high quantities in children’s toys and other products.

Studies have found that phthalates are linked to birth and other serious reproductive defects.

When these young children chew or suck on a toy with phthalates, these chemicals can leach from the toy and enter a child’s bloodstream. 

These chemicals can interfere with the natural functioning of the hormone system. They can cause reproductive abnormalities and result in an early onset of puberty.

And parents across the country have no idea of the risks. 

These chemicals have been banned in the European Union, five other countries and my home state of California. 

And eight other states have proposed similar bans. 

The time has come for the federal government to shield children from these dangerous chemicals.

Of course my Communications Director, like many parents, had no idea that this book contained high levels of phthalates. 

And it’s not just books.

Phthalates can be found in a variety of soft children’s toys such as rubber ducks and teethers -- like this one.

Here is another picture of my Communications Director’s son, taken more recently. 

He’s chewing on a teether. Tests found that this teether contained a high level of phthalates. 

In 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle sent 16 common children’s toys, like this teether, to a Chicago lab to test whether they contained phthalates. 

They did. In fact, the results should alarm parents everywhere:

  • One teether contained a phthalate at five times the proposed limit.
  • A rubber duck sold at Walgreens had 13 times the amount of phthalates now permissible under California law.
  • The face of a popular doll contained double California’s new phthalate limit. (San Francisco Chronicle, November 19, 2006) 

Another study tested 20 popular plastic toys. The results were equally troubling.

  • A “Baby I’m Yours” Doll, sold at Target contained nearly 32 percent of phthalates.
  • A toy ball, sold at Toys R’ Us, was found to contain 47.5 percent phthalates.
  • Three types of squeeze toys – a penguin and two ducks – contain high levels of phthalates. They were also bought at Wal-Mart and Target. (Washington Toxics Coalition, February 2008)

I am sending this amendment to the desk. The amendment which bans the use of chemical phthalates in toys as California has done and as eight states are continuing to do.

The European Union banned phthalates in 2006.

The Argentina Ministry of Health imposed a ban on phthalates in 1999.

Japan has banned phthalates in toys intended for young children under the age of six.

Fiji, Korea and Mexico have also banned or restricted phthalates in children’s products.

And beginning next year, toys containing more than trace amounts of phthalates cannot be sold in California stores.

My home state was the first state to ban phthalates in toys and other children’s products.

Eight states are following California’s lead.

Legislation has been offered in Washington state, in Maryland, Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont, West Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York. 

Unfortunately, toys containing phthalates are still available to children across this country.

It is time for the rest of the country to follow the lead of California, the European Union, and other nations. 

Without action, the United States risks becoming a dumping ground for phthalate laden toys that cannot legally be sold elsewhere.  American children deserve better.

Parents in every state should be able to enter any toy store, buy a present for their child, and know that they are not placing their son or daughter’s health at risk.

This amendment follows the same standards already set by the European Union and California.

It bans the use of six types of phthalates in toys. Three of the phthalates are banned from all children’s toys. Three other phthalates are banned from toys that children place in their mouths.

The amendment clearly states these chemicals cannot be replaced with other dangerous chemicals identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as carcinogens, possible carcinogens, or chemicals that cause reproductive or developmental harm.

The science involving phthalates is still evolving. However, we know that exposure to phthalates can cause serious long-term health effects. 

Some of the potential health problems and defects are highly personal, and difficult to discuss.  They are problems that no parent would ever want a child to experience.

  • Pregnant women with high levels of phthalates in their urine were more likely to give birth to boys with reproductive birth defects.
  • Phthalate exposure has also been linked to premature onset of puberty in young girls as young as 8 years old.
  • A 2002 study linked phthalate exposure levels to decreased fertility capacity in men.
  • Phthalates found in household dusts have been linked to asthma symptoms in children.

The evidence that phthalates cause health problems continues to mount.  And young children, whose bodies are still growing and developing, are particularly vulnerable when exposed to phthalates in the toys around them. 

Many American toy retailers have already stepped up when it comes to phthalates. 

  • Target has already eliminated phthalates from baby changing tables.  Late last year, they announced that most toys they sell will be phthalate free by Fall 2008.
  • Wal-Mart and Toy “R” Us announced that they will voluntarily comply with California’s standard nationwide.  They informed toy producers that beginning in 2009, they will no longer sell toys that contain phthalates. 

These retailers should be commended.

This action also underscores the emerging unease about these chemicals, with toy retailers acknowledging that parents do not want to unwittingly provide their young children with toys that could prove hazardous to their health. 

The amendment levels the playing field in the toy industry, requiring every toy store and manufacturer to comply with the standards being voluntarily put in place by some. 

I do want to underscore an important point, however. 

This voluntary action, while commendable, should not take the place of an official regulatory standard. 

Some manufacturers have marketed products as phthalate-free, but tests conducted by independent laboratory results have found phthalates. 

Parents wishing to purchase phthalate free toys must know what they are getting.

I firmly believe that only a legal standard, with the full weight of the law and potential legal consequences behind it, will make that guarantee.

There is much we do not know about the chemicals that surround us.  The evidence is mounting.  It demonstrates that phthalates pose a risk to children.

I strongly believe that the products should not be in the hands and mouths of children. 

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and to provide all American children with the same safe toys available in Europe and California.