SFO Nixes Toxins

Vall-E-Vents, the San Fernando Valley Sierra Club newsletter, Nov-Dec, 2006

San Francisco Nixes Plastic Toxins
(#9 of the Plastic Plagues Series)
by Sarah Mosko, Ph.D.

The City of San Francisco was first to nix some toxic plastics. Photo courtesy of my.sfgov.org

The City of San Francisco was first to nix some toxic plastics. Photo courtesy of my.sfgov.org

As of Dec. 2006, plastic toys and childcare products containing either of two chemicals known to disrupt sex hormones will no longer be manufactured, distributed or sold in San Francisco.

One targeted substance is bisphenol-A, the building block of polycarbonate plastics (#7) used to make some baby bottles, teethers and toys. It is an estrogen mimic that has been linked to miscarriage, birth defects, diabetes and prostate cancer. Leaching of bisphenol-A from polycarbonate bottles or containers into the contents has been documented.

Also banned are several plasticizers called phthalates added to PVC (#3, polyvinyl chloride) plastic products to make them soft and squishy. Many children’s toys and teethers contain phthalates that can migrate out since they’re not chemically bonded to the plastic polymer. Phthalates interfere with testosterone during fetal life, and exposure has been linked to abnormal reproductive organ development, infertility, premature breast development, shortened pregnancy, and asthma.

San Francisco’s first-of-its-kind, county-wide ordinance applies to all toys and products designed for mouthing in children under 3 years of age. Moreover, it stipulates that any alternative used to replace bisphenol-A or phthalates must be safe. This welcome step to regulate harmful plastics comes on the heels of the recent defeat at the state level in CA of a similarly worded bill (AB 319, Chan), despite the fact that, in 2004 and 2005, CA listed four phthalates (called DEHP, BBP, DBP & DnHP) as “reproductive toxins” under Prop 65, our Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. Neither bisphenol-A nor phthalates are banned at the national level either. In contrast, the European Union banned several phthalates in products for young children back in 1999.

We should all stand up and cheer those officials in San Francisco that made possible this badly needed and hopefully pace-setting regulation. Protecting the health of fetuses and young children from toxins stemming from petroleum-based plastics should be an inherent responsibility of all levels of government.

To participate in a California-based statewide plastics reduction campaign, contact Earth Resource Foundation or call (949) 645-5163.

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