Towards the end of last year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a final rule prohibiting children’s toys and child care articles from containing a number of specified phthalates. Rule 82 FR 49938 – which was passed after a Commission vote of 3 to 2 on 18th October 2017 – will take effect 180 days after its publication in the U.S. Federal Register.
What are phthalates?
Phthalates – which are esters of phthalic acid – are a group of chemicals mainly used as plasticizers; i.e. substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. They are used primarily to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and are present in hundreds of consumer products, such as:
- Cosmetics and personal care products, including perfume, hair spray, soap, shampoo, nail polish and moisturisers
- Consumer products, including flexible plastic and vinyl toys, shower curtains, wallpaper, food packaging and plastic wrap
- A wide range of other household products, including wood finishes, detergents, adhesives, lubricants, medical tubing, solvents, insecticides and medical devices
While the long term human health effects of phthalates are not yet fully known, several of these substances are believed to be endocrine disruptors, and it is thought that the ingestion of certain phthalates can have harmful health effects on children.
Which phthalate chemicals have been banned?
The CPSC’s final rule bans children’s toys and child care articles which contain more than 0.1% concentration of five specific phthalate chemicals. The rule is based on recommendations from a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP), which examined the health effects of phthalates in children’s toys and child care articles.
Based on the CHAP’s report, the Commission determined that the following five chemicals have harmful effects on male reproductive development:
- diisononyl phthalate (DINP)
- di-n-pentyl phthalate (DPENP)
- di-n-hexyl phthalate (DHEXP)
- dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP)
- diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP)
This rule caps off almost a decade of effort since the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was passed in 2008, which initially prohibited children’s toys and child care articles containing concentrations of more than 0.1% of three phthalate chemicals:
- di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
- dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
- benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)
The CPSC’s final rule brings the total number of phthalates that are restricted from use in children’s toys and child care articles at concentrations of more than 0.1% to eight.
Children’s toys are defined by the CPSIA as products designed or intended by the manufacturer for play by a child 12 years of age or younger. Child care articles are consumer products designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children aged three and younger, or to help children with sucking or teething.
When will the final rule take effect?
The final rule will become effective on 25th April 2018. A summary of the rule – including an extensive background to the ruling and an accompanying commentary – can be found here.
If you are a manufacturer or importer of any of the five banned phthalates, it is important to be aware of this ruling, and how it may impact your business in the future.
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