New Law Bans Chemical Found In Toys

A federal law went into effect this week banning certain chemicals from children's toys and other products. Chemicals called phthalates make plastic toys soft. A child chewing on a toy made with phthalates could ingest the chemical, which could create health risks, studies indicate.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

Starting this week, a federal law bans certain chemicals called phthalates from children's toys and other kids' products. A similar law went into effect here in California on the first of January. In Your Health today, reporter Sarah Varney looks at which chemicals are being used as substitutes. We begin with NPR's Jon Hamilton on the ban.

JON HAMILTON: Phthalates make plastic toys soft, but if kids chew on those toys, the chemicals can get into their bodies. Some early studies have linked phthalates to subtle changes in the reproductive organs of infant boys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission wasn't convinced by those studies, but many lawmakers wanted to take phthalates off the market, anyway.

Here's Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, at a subcommittee hearing last year.

JAN SCHAKOWSKY: I'm concerned that by not acting quickly, we will make the same mistakes we made in the past with lead, asbestos, pesticides, tobacco, and expose our children to substances which will permanently damage their development.

HAMILTON: Congress passed legislation banning phthalates just a few weeks after that hearing.

Jon Hamilton, NPR News.

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