Toys "R" Us, the nation’s leading retailer of children’s products, today announced its immediate plans for the worldwide removal of all direct-to-mouth products for infant use containing phthalates, such as teethers, rattles and pacifiers.
Toys "R" Us is taking a leadership role in the removal of these items from sale while additional scientific data is gathered by its suppliers and the government agencies which regulate safety standards for toys and children’s products.
"Although there has been no definitive scientific evidence that supports removal of these products, customer concern and the actions by some manufacturers to phase out phthalates have led us to this decision," said Robert C. Nakasone, Chief Executive Officer, Toys "R" Us. "We feel compelled to take a leadership role on behalf of our customers. As the leading retailer of children’s products, safety is our highest priority, and we want our customers to feel confident about shopping at Toys "R" Us."
Nakasone noted that the company had received assurances from manufacturers that scientific evidence supported the safety of phthalates. Nonetheless, some manufacturers’ decisions to phase out of product combined with conflicting reports on the safety of phthalates raised concerns among customers. The company has taken this action while it awaits results from additional tests being conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the United States and other regulatory agencies.
All Toys "R" Us, Kids "R" Us, and Babies "R" Us stores around the world will begin removing the direct-to-mouth products for infant use from the shelves immediately. Product removal is expected to be completed by next Wednesday (November 18).
7 European Countries Have Responded to Protect Kids;
Despite Alarm, No action in the U.S.
The organization is calling for the immediate removal of the chemical from toys, better labeling of the contents of all toys, and stricter government safety controls.
The chemical, a phthalate called DINP which is used in soft plastic vinyl toys to soften the plastic, has been linked to several potential health hazards by independent health experts, health and environment ministries in Europe, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. An Environmental Protection Agency-certified laboratory carried out the testing released today by the National Environmental Trust. It shows that high levels of DINP are present in each of the 33 soft plastic children's toys tested, including teething rings. Many of the toys that were tested can be purchased at major retailers in almost any community in the country. Seven European countries already have either banned or requested voluntary controls on the use of DINP in toys. The U.S. government, however, has not taken action.
"The government is failing American families because it is not telling them that they are exposing their children to products that have dangerous chemicals in them," said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust. "Most importantly, chemicals like the phthalate DINP should be removed from products children are exposed to... Toy manufacturers that continue to use DINP and other phthalate chemicals should be forced to label their product contents so that parents can know what the health impacts may be on their children."
Scientists, doctors, and public health officials have expressed similar alarm about the use in children's toys of phthalates and DINP the phthalate most commonly found in toys. In July of this year, 25 U.S. physicians and scientists sent a letter to Vice President Gore expressing their concerns about the safety of the chemical. Also, seven European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden already have taken official action to control the use of DINP.
"The fact is that chemicals that are in a plastic don't stay stuck or bound to the plastic, said David Ozonoff, MD, MPH and Chair of the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health. "For example, when you buy a new car and smell that great 'new car' smell, you are largely smelling the phthalates that are in the plastics on the inside of the car. The phthalates, like DINP, that make up so many common teething rings and plastic toys, are not bound to the plastic at all. So, when a child chews on the toy, the saliva wets the plastic so the phthalates leach out into the saliva and are ingested by the child."
Harvey Karp, MD, a pediatrician from the UCLA School of Medicine agrees: "The science is absolutely clear. Phthalates like DINP do come out of the plastic that kids chew and suck on," Karp said. "Some of the children in my pediatric practice eat more plastic than broccoli everyday and the phthalates in that plastic definitely get into their system. It's not okay for children to be eating plastic that is toxic."
Toys sold by the thousands from every major toy manufacturer -- both foreign and domestic -- contain DINP. Some U.S. toy manufacturers have reacted by taking small steps in dealing with the potential threat to kids. In September, Mattel announced it was removing the chemical only from toys intended for children's mouths, such as teethers. Health advocates responded that this half step ignored what every parent knows -- young children put everything in their mouths, not just toys intended for sucking. First Years, Inc., announced a similar step in November, and Rubbermaid's Little Tykes toy division says it will phase out the chemical from all toys for children under three.
The National Environmental Trust (NET) is calling on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to use its existing authority to ban the use of DINP phthalate in all toys, and for manufacturers to be required to label all toys for any ingredient that has been linked to health effects. Such a requirement--the Parent's Right to Know Act--is pending in Congress. NET president, Philip Clapp, says that similar to the way some other products are regulated, toys should be tested before sale: "Why are additives in foods, drugs, and cosmetics required to be tested before sale but not additives in toys that small children suck on for hours a day?" Clapp says, "This public safety loophole must be closed."
Written by: National Environmental Trust
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