For the second time in three years, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has declared that there is no scientific evidence for what Greenpeace and other ecological activist groups maintain — that soft vinyl plastic toys contain a dangerous poison.

There may or may not be a risk from soft vinyl pacifiers and teething rings — if infants hold them in their mouths for many hours — a special advisory panel to the CPSC said, but otherwise the danger to humans from a chemical known as DINP — a phthalate — is “extremely low or non-existent.”

What are Phthalates?
DINP (diisononyl phthalate) and DEHP (Di 2-ethylhexyl phthalate) are phthalates — chemicals used to make polyvinyl plastic products, like children’s toys, soft and flexible. Tests with rats have shown that, at high dosages, they may cause cancers and liver damage.

The Food and Drug Administration recently published a safety evaluation of DEHP, which is used chiefly to make polyvinyl medical devices soft and flexible. Its conclusion: there is little to no reason for concern about its safety.

A panel formed by the American Council on Science and Health and chaired by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., reached the same conclusion in 1999. It said while it is impossible to state that there is no danger from exposure to any substance, the only evidence that DINP could be dangerous was from tests with rats, “which had little relevance for humans.”

DEHP in plastics used in medical devices, the panel said, had been found not to be harmful even to people who have been highly exposed to it, such as dialysis patients. Furthermore, it said, plastics made with the chemical have characteristics “that are vital to the function” of some devices.

The Campaign Against Plastics
Greenpeace, a worldwide organization that opposes whaling, nuclear power development, destruction of tropical rain forests, and many other activities it believes are dangerous to the future health of the planet, has been campaigning for years against the manufacture of plastic products, particularly those made of PVCs, polyvinyl chloride plastics, which are not biodegradable.

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