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In Toys and More, Are Chemicals Safe or Harmful?
Date:9/5/2009

New law tightens use of phthalates, but industry says hazard isn't proven,,,,

SATURDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Chemicals with the tongue-twisting name of phthalates (pronounced THAL ates) are nearly ubiquitous in consumer products, found in items from soaps, lotion and cosmetics to plastics and toys.

A little over a decade ago, environmental organizations such as the Environmental Working Group began to focus on phthalates and have been working ever since for tighter regulation or, in some cases, bans.

On the other side are groups such as the American Chemistry Council, representing the industries that produce phthalate-containing products. It says it supports "science-based product safety decisions."

If you're a consumer, chances are extremely high that you've been exposed to phthalates, said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group. "About 95 percent of people have measurable levels of these chemicals, the phthalates, in them," she said. Often younger women, partly because of cosmetic use, have higher levels, she said.

Over the past few years, researchers have uncovered multiple health hazards, either in animal or human studies, linked to phthalates. For instance, the chemicals have been found to lower sperm quality in men as well as testosterone levels, in turn perhaps setting them up for unhealthy abdominal obesity.

Pregnant women working in the beauty industry have been found at higher risk for giving birth to boys with birth defects.

Exposure to the chemicals also has been linked with early-onset puberty and with a higher risk of breast cancer later on in adulthood.

And a study released in late June suggested that low birth weight in babies was linked to their mothers' exposure to phthalates while pregnant.

To date, the strongest links between phthalates and health have focused on reproductive problems, said Shanna Swan, a pro
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