Gender-bending chemicals found in toxic toys

Consumer goods aimed at children contain high levels of toxic substances that could potentially damage their development and health, a report by Greenpeace has revealed.

Out of a shopping basket of everyday consumer goods, those with the highest levels of toxic chemicals were the ones aimed at children, with Mattel’s new Barbie Fashion Fever doll, currently on sale in the UK, found to contain high levels of phthalates.

An emergency restriction on certain phthalates has already been put into place by the European Commission, including the two phthalates found in the Barbie doll, for children’s items for the 0-3 age range.

“As long as governments fail to demand companies use safer substitutes for these chemicals, then our children will carry on being exposed to dangerous substances,” toxics campaigner Iza Kruszewska warned.

Many of the chemicals concerned, including phthalates, alkylphenols, organotins and synthetic musks, can potentially disrupt hormone functions, cause cancers or birth defects, harm reproduction and build up or persist in the environment, food chain and in the fatty tissues in our bodies.

And the EU’s REACH proposals will not be enough to control these dangerous chemicals, according to Greenpeace, as it falls short of requiring companies to substitute hazardous chemicals in products with safer alternatives wherever possible, even though a growing number of progressive global companies are now beginning to do just that.

Samsung, Nokia and Puma all committed themselves to making their products less toxic in 2004, and now Sony and Sony Ericsson have also followed suit.

“The recent commitments from Sony and Sony Ericsson add to the weight of evidence showing that companies can substitute harmful chemicals with safer alternatives without losing their competitive edge,” Iza Kruszewska added.

“The REACH regulation must require substitution of hazardous chemicals wherever safer alternatives are available.”

By Jane Kettle

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