Phthalates may be on their way out. Home Depot recently announced it will phase phthalates out of flooring, and now the Consumer Safety Product Commission has proposed a ban on some of the most toxic phthalates in children’s toys and products. While you wait for the final bell to toll on these toxic chemicals–which soften plastics and stabilize artificial fragrances–here’s what you need to know.
Well this is good news: Home Depot is nixing phthalates in vinyl flooring. Why is this important? Banned in kids’ products since 2008, phthalates are endocrine disruptors that have been linked to birth defects, learning disabilities and obesity, among other problems. Home Depot company is the world’s largest buyer of building products; when they say no to phthalates, you can be sure other chains will follow.
In the past, I’ve shared information about flame retardants, the toxic chemicals which have doused our foam furniture, baby products and mattresses for the past 40 years and are linked to autism and lowered IQs in the kids who are exposed to them. But a recent UC Berkeley study again put toxic flame retardants front and center: Researchers found flame retardants in 100% of preschools tested. An organic, flame retardant free crib mattress is the best way to go for babies and toddlers, but if they’re priced out of your—or your preschool’s—budget, I discovered a lower-priced solution that’s still flame retardant free. And I’m giving three away!
Is your child’s backpack filled with dangerous chemicals? Each year, the Center for Health, Environment & Justice tests back to school products to help parents find safer back to school supplies for their kids. This year, they found harmful levels of phthalates and vinyl in 20 popular back to school school products—including backpacks, lunchboxes, binders and raingear—at levels that would be illegal if the products were toys.
Can a rubber ducky make your kids fat? A 2012 study found a connection between a chemical found in PVC and kids’ obesity: Children with the highest level of the common phthalate di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) in their blood were nearly five times as likely to be obese as children with the lowest levels. But what are phthalates? These chemicals, also known as plasticizers, are used to soften plastic. (Want to know why that your old ball gets brittle? That’s because phthalates have leached out of it.) They also serve to help personal care products penetrate the skin, as well as preserve synthetic fragrances.