DEHP, dibutyl phthalate, and butylbenzyl phthalate. Most people choke on these words and have little idea of what they mean, even though they are in fact very potent substances – so much that they have been banned in the European Union.
Phthalates are plastics that were, before the ban in 2005, used for toys and pacifiers until it was discovered that they could cause long term damages in children – such as reproductive problems.
Recently, however, the EcoWaste Coalition discovered that Filipino children are constantly exposed to the dangerous phthalates that are used in products commonly used by school children. These results have made one of EcoWaste’s partners, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) react and the organization now pushes the Filipino government to follow the European example and ban the chemicals.
“This is a disturbing discovery,” says Dr. Andreas Prevodnik, the Program Officer of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
“Children are particularly vulnerable, as their reproductive systems are under development. Furthermore, DEHP is a suspected carcinogen. For these reasons, DEHP is prohibited in the EU in toys and childcare articles.”
He adds that DEHO has been proven to be toxic to development and reproductive systems in animals and scientists believe the chemical to have similar harmful effects in humans.
“In the interest of children’s health and safety, we urge the authorities to make a decisive policy action—based on the precautionary principle—against these toxic substances,” a representative from EcoWaste says.
“In the meantime, we advise parents to patronize school supplies that are PVC-free and invite them to join us in pushing for a strong regulation that will ban and safeguard our children from phthalates.”
And Andreas Prevodnik agrees as he encourages governments to look for alternatives to the dangeroud phthalates:
“The use of PVC plastics, which requires plasticizers, such as phthalates, should be restricted, not the least in products intended for children. If less harmful alternatives are available, these should substitute the more harmful. A number of alternative plasticizers that appear to be less harmful than DEHP are available.”
In December 2005, the European Union Parliament voted to ban the use of three phthalates (DEHP, dibutyl phthalate or DBP and butylbenzyl phthalate or BBP) and restrict the use of another three phthalates (di-iso nonyl phthalate or DINP, di-iso-decyl phthalate or DIDP and di-n-octyl phthalate or DNOP) in plastic toys and childcare articles, without recommended age-limitations.
In July 2008, the US Congress enacted the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act banning six phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP and DNOP) from children’s toys and cosmetics.
Beginning March 2010, Australia adopted an 18-month ban on products containing more than 1 percent DEHP by weight for toys, childcare articles and eating vessels for use by children up to 3 years old.
During the Fourteenth Congress in the Philippines, Sen. Lito Lapid proposed a resolution banning phthalates in cosmetics and personal-care products, while Senator Miriam Santiago and her son, Representative Narciso Santiago 3rd of the party-list ARC, filed bills promoting phthalate-free toys.