Seizing on the rat tests, in 1998 Greenpeace and several allied organizations stepped up their campaign against PVCs, claiming that they were dangerous to babies and small children. The European Union, although its own science advisory board said the animal test results did not mean there was a danger to humans, imposed a ban on teethers, pacifiers, nipples and other soft plastic products that children might put in their mouths. The EU began considering a total ban on plastic products containing phthalates. To date, no such ban has been imposed.

No Grounds for a Ban
In the United States, major toy makers Mattel and Disney said they were considering stopping use of soft PVCs in Barbie dolls and other products. After reports by the Koop committee and the CPSC said that there was no risk to children, and no grounds for a ban on plastic toys or medical devices containing phthalates, no regulation like that proposed in Europe has ever been considered in the United States.

Last year, the opponents of vinyl toys found fresh ammunition in studies by the National Institute of Health Sciences, which found some evidence that exposure to phthalates might cause testicular abnormalities in little boys and premature development of breasts in infant girls. A special panel decided the evidence for that was not convincing and said there needed to be “low, minimal or negligible concern” about the possibility, but recommended that further studies be made.

The weight of scientific opinion is firmly on the side of the view that phthalates, at the level at which they can be absorbed from plastic products, are no danger to human beings, including babies. The majority view of medical researchers on the subject was summarized recently by Daland R. Juberg, M.D., who heads the International Center for Toxicology and Medicine in Rochester, New York: “There is no human evidence of harm resulting from DINP exposure, either in children or adults.”

However, 11 major manufacturers of plastic products that are or might be put into small children’s mouths have discontinued making them out of plastics containing phthalates, and 8 nationwide retailers of toys or family products have stopped stocking them.

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